Is Flow Leading the Microgeneration Revolution?
One of the problems with producing great renewable technology on a micro scale that has real benefits for domestic properties has always been the affordability. Now energy company Flow have combined cutting edge new technology that has been developed over the past 10 years and combined it with an imaginative set of financing options that are tied to the Feed in Tariff.
A home boiler that actually produces electricity too which can either be fed directly into your house or sold to the National Grid. In truth boilers that produce electricity as well are not a totally new concept – the technology is fairly simple. The benefit here lies in the ability to bring the cost down enough so that consumers benefit more widely from changing to this much lower carbon approach to heating and powering the home.
Who Are Flow?
If you’ve never heard of Flow you may be set to become more aware as they launch a major advertising campaign for their boiler from the 15th January. According to CEO Tony Staff in October last year: “We have major shareholders such as Aviva, which holds 20 per cent of our stock. We have the third-largest American contract manufacturer Jabil providing working capital…if you look at our track record, you’ll see we’ve been round a long time and are already generated £40million of energy sales.”
The system works a little like a refrigeration unit with a volatile liquid in the main electricity producing part. Gas heat is produced as normal but this evapourates the liquid and feeds it through a scroll expander which is essentially a kind of dynamo. As anyone with a little knowledge of electricity production will know, movement of a coil can produce a current and that electricity can be then fed into the house. The liquid, after flowing through the scroll expander, condenses and is returned to the beginning where the whole process starts again.
Is it too good to be true?
The question that many have asked is what happens with the electricity production when the heating isn’t on? The truth is that there is currently no way to store the electricity generated and so when the heater is not on then there is no electrical power.
According to Flow this isn’t going to be as much of a problem as many think because most electricity is used at night when people are at home and are using things like hot water and having washes. Having said that, there is no doubt that the electricity production will be more of a saving in the colder months when the heating is on.
In truth, the boiler that produces electricity as well is not intended to completely rid you of dependence on the National Grid. It does, however, help you in the long run reduce the costs.
The finance deal that makes a difference
The devil is in the detail and the finance package that comes with Flow’s new boiler owes a lot to the Government’s Feed in Tariff that pays renewable energy owners for the power they generate. That means that Flow can offer something akin to the Green Deal where the cost of the boiler is redeemed through savings on fuel bills or the free installation style offer that is seen with solar panels where the Feed in Tariff is handed over to the installing company until the bill is paid off.
Without this kind of financing option, the Flow Boiler would be much less attractive. The unfettered cost is more than your average run of the mill condensing boiler. According to The Liverpool Echo in November, the savings could amount to as much as £500 a year: “It has the potential to generate around 40% of a household’s electricity, saving a customer around £200 a year – and generating around £300 a year on top in ‘Feed in Tariff’ payments.”
The future of micro energy
At the Renewable Energy Hub we believe that this could represent a real change in the way we look at energy production in the home. Whether we like it or not, we are all still dependent on a fossil fuels like gas and will be for the foreseeable future and as the flow boiler isn’t strictly a renewable energy appliance – the trick is how we help to reduce our carbon footprint and make using this source of energy far more carbon friendly.
Whilst Flow may be the first to get this technology onto the market in a way that normal everyday people find affordable, they probably won’t be the last. The rest of the industry is looking at what happens and if the number of people who take up the offer is impressive, you will no doubt see a rapid increase in the range of heating/electricity generating boilers on offer. The hope is that with greater demand, the overall price of the boilers will come down, making it more and more affordable in the future.
The future could well belong to the micro generation innovators.
Find out more about the Flow Boiler here.