Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Here's a cool idea

Back as an undergrad at Michigan State, all electrical engineering students took a trip out to the campus power plant and learned exactly why the dorm rooms were so hot in the winter and into the spring; the waste heat from the power plant was being used to heat--and cool--all buildings on campus. Although a great deal of the heat went through the single pane windows of Bryan Hall and other dorms (we left the windows open when it was zero outside, it was so hot), the efficiency of the "cogeneration" system was said to be about 60%--roughly twice that of the average coal fired power plant of the day. Even today, it's about 50% better efficiency than the best coal and gas fired power plants.

Enter Volkswagen, which has developed a nifty little natural gas fired power plant that will be sufficient to power a few homes, and will produce waste heat for hot water and heat. Now it's a hefty price at 5000 euros (roughly $7500), but if it indeed replaces a $2000 heater, a $500 water heater, and $100 or so a month in electric bills, this could indeed be the first thing that actually comes close to being an ecologically and economically sound replacement for centralized generation and distribution of electricity.


Mark said...

So... The local utility company puts several of these on my block and I share mine with two or three of my neighbors?

They also dig utility tunnels in our back yards? Or worse, in our streets?

Whose property will they put this on?

Whoops, just finished the article and found that the conclusions to which I'd jumped were incorrect.

It does sound like a good way to create a shortage of plumbers and electricians...

They want to abandon their nuclear power plants for these? Hmmm...

They also seem to want to move away from standard, incandescent light... To what?!

And they "could be mobilised to meet a surge in demand..." So my hot water heater is now controlled by someone else. (Admittedly, my power already is.)

I do have plenty of room in my basement, but I'd be paying them for the privilege of hosting their power plant and getting dribs and drabs of $s back. :^/

Bike Bubba said...

Not that big of a deal if it's well done. You simply hook up neighboring houses with the same 240V line they're using anyways. Hot water would be shared by a pair of 1" insulated lines below ground--just like the hot water heat I had back on 95th St.

(at 20kW, though, it's better suited to an apartment than to a freestanding home)

Personally, I've got $250/month devoted to electricity and natural gas costs. If I saved even half of that, it would cover this kind of system. So if they're doing it without subsidies, it's really the first cost effective system out there.

Mark said...

Me - ~$230 average including water (and not much of that in winter)

In the US, you'd probably get to be your own utility company.

It probably is subsidized, since the German light company still owns it. It seemed like most of the costs were for changes to the home.