Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Distributing the grid...

No, not that sort of Grid, the more traditional sort. With wind turbines and photovoltaic panels becoming more wide spread the BBC asks "Can a home wind turbine make money?"

I think both Donnachadh McCarthy and David Nisbet would agree that the answer is probably yes, but I don't think that this is the right question to ask in the first place...

Surely the question you should ask yourself is, with rising energy prices does it break even over the lifetime of the equipment at the current price point per kWh? I very much doubt that the cost of energy is going to fall, so if you're even close to breaking even distributed generation is probably going to a safe bet, and you get to thumb your nose at the power companies...

With the growing interest manufacturers of small wind turbines are stepping forward to provide solutions like the WES5 Tulipo which is specially designed for urban environments, and despite our dismal weather here in the UK, coupling a small wind turbine with solar hot water or photovoltaic systems could make you almost entirely self-sufficent for power.

With the recent petrol protests there has been a resurgence of interest in biomass energy and Biodiesel. Unfortunately most of us don't have several acres of land to grow our own biofuel. Therefore a good alternative to selling the excess energy from your wind turbine or solar panels back to the National Grid would be to couple them with an electrolyser to produce hydrogen for fuel and invest in a car which run on fuel cells or via Hydrogen internal combustion. Of course both of these technologies have some way to go to reach even the level of consumer acceptance that wind and solar power have obtained.

However which ever way you look at it distributing the generation of power make sense. Forget about the advantages of reduced environmental impact, the 2003 blackout in North America only goes to prove how fragile central generation can be for a developed nation with complex legacy systems in place. Now we have the technology to efficiently generate power locally, we should probably do so...

Update: Looks like the government is having problems with its grants for solar power installations...

Update: Slashdot reports on a new type of wind turbine...

Update: More from Wired on biodiesel as a replacement for heating oil.