These are exciting times for the British microgeneration sector. Dave Sowden, chief executive of the Micropower Council has said that the UK is “the only country in the world that has a government–backed microgeneration strategy.” Some of the more recent innovations include:
Home energy management company PassivSystems has developed an iPhone app, PassivEnergy, that allows consumers to manage domestic heating from any location, as well as a secure portal that calculates energy use and finds a tariff best suited to individual needs.
PassivSystems, whose first product was a monitoring solution for solar panels, now has 65 employees. “More than half are software engineers and we’ve shipped 20,000 systems so far in the UK,” says chief operating officer Mark Davies.
Annabel Mansell, 29, helped develop and launch the Ecodan air source heat pump. It operates on the same principle as a refrigerator, but in reverse. Heat is absorbed from the air outside – even when the temperature is as low as 5F (–15C) – to generate electricity that can power underfloor heating and hot–water systems.
At its factory in Preston, gas boiler manufacturer Baxi designs and builds micro–CHP boilers to supply the growing UK market, as well as exporting them to Germany and the Netherlands. Technical manager Bob Knowles, 52, and his team began developing the Baxi Ecogen micro–CHP dual energy system seven years ago and launched it in March 2010.
“A CHP boiler has two burners instead of one,” says Knowles. “The second burner powers a small Stirling engine that uses waste heat and water cooling to make a cylinder expand and contract. The electricity generated by the entire appliance is 92 per cent efficient and will save a tonne of CO2 per household per year. That’s good for our customers and beneficial for the planet.
University of Cambridge spin–off company Eight19 is developing printed plastic solar technology to deliver low–cost solar cells that can be integrated into a variety of applications. IndiGo is an affordable solar lighting and battery–charging system that brings low–cost energy to off–grid communities. It is already being used in India and Africa to replace the less carbon–friendly kerosene.
ITM Power, which employs 55 people at two facilities in Sheffield, is developing a highpower membrane for the next generation of polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells, which generate electricity by consuming hydrogen and oxygen.
The advanced membrane, which could help double a fuel cell’s power density – allowing more energy to be created per cm³ – could be incorporated into a low–carbon vehicle by 2017.
“A micro–CHP boiler is 92 per cent efficient and will save a tonne of CO2 per household each year
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