Anticipation for the ‘Ground-breaking fuel cell Cogeneration Systems’ has been met with a 2014 release date.

Stirling engine micro combined heat and power boilers (mCHP) have been around for over 24 months now, but the manufacturers have not enjoyed the sales numbers that were initially forecast. This was due in the large part to the high initial purchase cost and the hotly debated time scales associated with the initial investment payback period – when applied to real-world installations.

New mCHP technologies, mainly Fuel Cell boilers, have been a highly anticipated commodity for many years now. Release dates have come and gone but now it seems that realistic proposals have been made for their main-stream production. BlueGen and Viessmann / Panasonic are set to release their Fuel Cell boilers in 2014.

A Fuel cell boiler is a boiler that takes energy from fuel (natural gas or LPG) at a chemical level instead of during a combustion process. A simplistic view of a fuel cell is a cross between a battery (chemical to electrical generator) and a heat engine (chemical to heat to generator via oxidation). It’s said that this method can not only be much more carbon efficient but also improve the efficiency of the whole heat and power generation process. The technology extracts more energy from the fuel than its predecessor’s combustion method. Hailed by many as ‘the future of domestic carbon depletion’, this co-generation technology* may well be available to UK households by early next year.

The Viessmann Group and Panasonic Corporation are set to release the first fuel cell co-generation system or polymer electrolyte fuel cell (PECF) for domestic use in Germany in April 2014. The units will be available on the UK market as soon as practicable after this date. The fuel cell unit has been developed by Panasonic, and the peak load boiler and hot water tank by Viessmann, who will also handle the unit’s assembly. The unit is expected to cut carbon emissions when compared to a standard gas condenser boiler by up to 50% and have outstanding energy efficiency and reliability. By 2020 Panasonic and Viessmann expect to have achieved a five-figure installation in European properties; however this figure could be vastly higher.

For further information on the Panasonic/Viessmann microCHP unit click here.

The new BlueGen boiler also uses ceramic fuel cells to electrochemically convert gas into heat and electricity. The unit is about the size of a standard washing machine and is said to save the average household up to 14.5 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide a year, create 200 liters of ‘free’ hot water per day and produce up to 36 kWh of electricity per day. It is currently only available to showcase sites, green buildings, local councils and other commercial consumers. They are however planned for release to the UK domestic market imminently, but we have no exact date as of yet. The price has yet to be announced and may well play a big part in the commercial success of this unit.

Read more about the BluGen unit here.

It’s worth noting that although fuel cell microCHP units are very carbon efficient, cutting out the ‘dirty’ process of combustion, they are not carbon neutral. This sheds an element of doubt over the longevity of the technology, as it will not adhere to the government’s plans for all new UK homes to be Carbon neutral by 2016. This said the Government’s feed-in tariff scheme has guaranteed the payment period on microCHP for ten years. The BlueGen Carbon savings calculator can be found here (http://bluegen.info/calc/)

Energy prices have more than doubled over the past ten years, and it is highly unlikely that they will fall in the future. Quite the contrary, as resources become more and more scarce it is expected that energy costs will continue to rise at an alarming rate. Technology that increases the useable energy harnessed from fuel, in regards to the power and heat generation process, and reduces a property’s overall carbon footprint, will enable your home to become more independent of the rising energy prices whilst helping protect our children’s futures.

*co-generation is a term defined by ‘a single device that generates both electrical power and usable heat in a single process’.

Fuel Cell mCHP Units
Panasonic/Viessmann Fuel Cell mCHP unit & BlueGen mCHP unit

‘World’s most eco-friendly building’ opened by the Queen

The Queen of England opened the world’s most eco-friendly building in Manchester today.

One Angel Square, home to the Co-operative Group’s new offices, is claimed to be the world’s most environmentally friendly building. It houses a CHP (combined heat and power) system that has an efficiency of over 95.16% tested by BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method).
This puts the building on the top spot of the podium for eco-rating for a building, by the industry environmental assessment experts.
The oil fired CHP unit is fueled from a plant oil that is grown on Co-operatives own land and the unit generates both heat and electricity for the whole building.
The eco-friendly components by 3DReid (architects) and construction firm BAM include a rainwater harvesting and recycling system and 300,000 square feet of exposed concrete that acts as a thermal sponge.
Passive solar heating has been maximised through the use of vast areas of glazing. Fresh air is supplied to the building through a network of underground pipes which act as earth-to-air heat exchangers, before passively ventilating the building.

The building delivers an 80% carbon reduction and a 50% reduction in energy consumption compared to the Co-operative’s current building complex.

3D Reads designs were tested against 2050 climate data, which meant that the building’s design will be even more efficient as temperatures rise due to global warming.

For more information on CHP and mCHP visit our information pages here.

CoOp CHP eco building
Co-Operative Office crowned No1 Eco-friendly building in the world!

Government backed Fuel Cell Micro-CHP project in Japan

Efforts to bring the economic and environmental benefits of cutting-edge microCHP technologies to the domestic markets of the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, and Germany are reaching new heights. The development and production of this co-generation technology that produces heat for space and hot water as well as producing electricity for use in the home has been highly anticipated by global markets.

Japan is leading the implementation race with Toshiba, JX Energy and Panasonic, the key players in Japan’s fuel cell program, all focusing on small scale (1kW systems) domestic microCHP boiler production and development. Japan considers small scale domestic mCHP Fuel Cell systems to be one of the 21 key technologies for the future.

In 2000, the Japanese government launched the Ene-Farm deployment program for domestic fuel cell microCHP. After four years of technology verification they developed a large-scale demonstration project installing nearly 3000 microCHP fuel cell systems. This program and its microCHP unit have been described as “the most successful residential micro-CHP fuel cell to date.” In 2009 this evolved into a full scale commercialisation program. Since then the unit has seen an exponential growth in sales with more than 20,000 units being installed in three years, with projected sales of 50,000 units a year by 2015.

For an easy to use breakdown of all you might need to know about microCHP, such as UK boiler prices and efficiencies, availablity and application, visit our mCHP pages HERE

Ene-Farm Logo
Ene-Farm Logo

A buyer’s guide to wind turbines

For over 3000 years civilisations have used wind power to their advantage. Although we no longer use wind power like the ancient Babylonians, the same principle is used in today’s technology. The power of the wind turns a turbine blade connected to a shaft that can be used to our advantage. Contemporary technology connects the shaft to a generator to make electricity. That electricity can be used to provide power for a home / outbuilding, or can be fed back into the local grid, helping to power your home and the homes around you.

We here in the UK, have the best wind resources in Europe. We lead the world in offshore wind farm installations and we have the biggest wind projects in Europe currently under construction. At this very moment 2.5% of all power consumed in the United Kingdom is generated by wind energy. Obviously this electricity is produced on a commercial scale, on wind farms constituting of over 700 large turbines of various sizes and power. On a smaller domestic scale, wind turbines can be used for your residential power needs. Domestic wind turbines can help power your home day and night when there is wind present. Any electricity that you generate you get paid for and also you get a fee for the electricity that isn’t used and is fed back into the national grid, earning you the government’s feed-in tariff for wind energy, that has been guaranteed for 20 years and is index linked. They also lower your households overall carbon emissions.

Wind turbines are characteristically organised into two main types, horizontal axis and vertical axis. Most domestic wind turbines are of the horizontal variety. This type conventionally has its rotor shaft and generator near the blades at the top of a tower. This head unit can then rotate to face the oncoming wind. If the wind is too strong they are designed to face away from the wind to protect the unit from damage along with pitch control that turns the blades profile, reducing the drag factor.

You may have seen building mounted wind turbines around. This turbine type is relatively new and has received some criticism due to the fact that they generally have a low output and can cause unwanted stress to your building. They do however avoid the costs of having a free standing tower and dedicated foundations. Due to this you should always seek specialist advice before installing a building mounted turbine.

The site for your wind turbine will need to be assessed. Wind turbines need very strong foundations as the turbine itself is very susceptible to turbulence, often supporting poles or guide wires are used to make them more secure. Usually a feasibility study will be carried out by yourself or your installer prior to installation. You can get yourself anemometer to test the wind levels, it’s best to keep the anemometer in place for 3months to a year in order to get an accurate reading. You will need to be measuring annual average wind speeds of over 11mps (meters per second) or your turbine may not yield profitable results. Generally the more consistent wind your turbine gets, the more electricity is produced. Consider what surrounding obstructions there might be such as buildings or trees. Planning permission may be needed, although your installer can advise you on these matters, it is often best to look into this yourself beforehand.

Stand-alone domestic wind turbine systems can be expected to have a battery to store excess power especially if it is not grid-tied, for use when there isn’t enough wind. Deep-cycle batteries are preferable because they can discharge and recharge many times. These batteries can last for 5-8 years and range in price from around £100 to £1000.

Unless you are planning on using battery power exclusively, a power inverter will need to be installed. The power inverter will be connected between your turbine and your homes existing power supply. The inverter converts low voltage DC to 120 volts AC, the same as from the national grid.

Your installer should liaise with your District Network Operator (DNO) to connect your wind turbine to the local grid. There may be a charge for this depending on the size of your turbine and location.

If the national grid fails for any reason, grid connected inverters automatically switch off to protect engineers working on the line. If grid related power cuts are common in your area, you might wish to consider some form of back-up storage. Consult with your installer for further details.

Make sure that your installer and system are MCS certified to be eligible for the ‘generation tariff’ and ‘Export tariff’. The feed-in tariff can only be gained by certain types of wind turbine and only for turbines installed by MCS certified installers. If your system is eligible you will receive an annual payment for all the electricity generated no matter how it is used, this is called the ‘Generation tariff’. You will also get a payment for any electricity you export, this is called the ‘Export tariff’.

The cost of a wind turbine system may vary considerably so make sure you get at least three quotes from reputable MCS accredited installers. Do as much research as possible! Wind turbines need regular maintenance but can be expected to operate for over 20 years. Ask your installer to provide you with written details of when and how often maintenance checks should be carried out and how much these are likely to cost. You can also check this with the manufacturer of your system. Always check the warranty before purchase and make sure you are covered for as long as possible.

All MCS approved installers should be able to provide a detailed breakdown of the specifications and costs of their proposed system. They should visit you in person to complete a technical survey before giving a quote and provide an estimate of how much electricity will be produced by the proposed system.

Suppliers/installers of wind turbines (both domestic and commercial) can be found by searching here.

Small Wind Turbine
Small Residential Wind Turbine