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VW enters the home power market

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September 15, 2009

VW's 'SchwarmStrom' project would replace nuclear and coal power stations with 100,000 hom...

VW's 'SchwarmStrom' project would replace nuclear and coal power stations with 100,000 home-based power units

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Volkswagen has recently announced a rather ambitious project that, for a change, has nothing to do with cars. Teaming up with regenerative-power company Lichtblick, it aims to install 100,000 co-generation power units in Germany as part of a concept called ‘SchwarmStrom’ which, literally translated, means ‘swarm power’. Successful application would allow Germany to abandon the use of nuclear and coal power stations and provide adequate backup to renewable energy sources, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by up to 60%.

The plan is to install miniature gas-fired power plants based on internal combustion engines in homes, which would collectively produce electricity equivalent to two nuclear reactors over the course of year. Providing heating, hot-water and electricity would be the generator’s main job, and excess power would be relayed back into the local grid for use elsewhere.

Lichtblick underlines its green credentials by citing the use of biogas rather than natural gas, and benefits to the consumer come in the form of greatly reduced consumption due to the high efficiency of the new system. It does have a few hurdles to jump before this vision can become reality, however, since households would allegedly have to pay around USD$7,250 each in order to have a generator installed.

A statement released by VW and Lichtblick reads “SchwarmStrom is revolutionizing power production in Germany. It clears the way for more renewable energy and an exit from power from nuclear and coal. The home power plants together form a huge, invisible power station that doesn’t make the countryside ugly or require additional infrastructure.”

The success of the project is largely based on hitting the targets set to make the savings feasible, and many more questions are likely to be posed to involved parties at the Frankfurt motor show.

8 Comments

Is is just me, or is an internal combustion engine (even with gas) incredibly inefficient for making power? I know most gas engines have a 25-30% efficiency rating.

Is not most of the energy going to go out the exhaust pipe?

And 7 grand a year? What does the average household pay for heat, hot water and electricity in one year?

I think this technology is a great idea if the government wants to get away from nuclear and coal, and they want a distributed system that allows them to keep the existing power grid without upgrades.

PrometheusGoneWild.com
16th September, 2009 @ 05:12 am PDT

The 7K is to install the system, not the annual operating costs. However that does raise the question of what the annual operating costs will be per household. There will be some efficiency benefits in that the waste heat from the engines will provide for the hot water and heat for the houses. Less of an issue in some countries and areas, but where I live, what about AC?

Natural gas requires a gas engine, with biogas, would the engine be able to be diesel? Diesel is more efficient for power creation but at increased pollutants.

Luddite
16th September, 2009 @ 07:37 am PDT

Dennis, where are you reading 7 grand a year?

The article says USD$7,250 in order to have a generator installed :)

Nezar Fez Nielsen
16th September, 2009 @ 07:52 am PDT

I think it's 7 grand to install it...but they go on to say that this thing runs off of bio-gas...Uh, what is that and where do I get it? I don't have a "bio-gas" nozzle at my local gas station. And if I can get it, will it be under 4 bucks a gallon? And what does this generator get in kw/gallon of bio-gas? And where is it stored? Do I have to have this huge tank to store it in? I remember at my grandmothers house in Germany, once or twice each winter, this truck would drive around the neighborhood and deposit coal into the basement coal-chute under the house so that the furnace would have enough coal to run the heating...sure, you had to go down there every day to stoke the furnace, but this idea seems alot like that...a truck will have to drive around the neighborhoods and top-off the biogas for the generators...I'm sure *THAT* won't add into the carbon footprint of this generator!

Ed

Ed
16th September, 2009 @ 02:46 pm PDT

I have a few points to make.

1) Efficiency: Outside of an automobile, ICE's achieve very good thermal efficiencies-especially if the waste heat is used to heat water & heat/cool homes. Efficiencies of around 50%-70% are quite realistic.

2) Cost: I confess the start price is a bit steep-but higher prices don't dissuade people from buying cars, solar panels or-in some cases-even large screen TV's. That said, the ability to *sell* excess electricity to the grid, coupled with cost reductions as economies of scale are achieved, will probably see these systems become *very* affordable in the coming decade.

3) Bio-gas: Ed, it's just a fancy word for methane. An increasing number of landfill sites & sewerage treatment plants collect it, & can pipe it to homes via the existing natural gas infrastructure. Additionally, if homes could be fitted with an Anaerobic Digester, then they could produce their *own* bio-gas from household organic wastes (food, garden waste, grey water etc). What's left behind is also great fertilizer!

Ultimately, I think this technology will have most immediate use in high-rise blocs of offices and apartments-where the cost can be defrayed over multiple users. From there it could spread to nearly every house. I'm guessing that's something the big electricity producers are *very* afraid of (and the real reason they spread anti-Global Warming propaganda).

Aussie_Renewable
16th September, 2009 @ 09:20 pm PDT

When I installed a NG generator at my home in Florida, the cost of the generator (15kw) was the cheap part. Electrician labor was actually MORE than the generator.

The generator was $3200 after rebate (Generac)

and electrician's fees, switchboxes, wiring, etc. ran another $3500.

I can't imagine the cost to the homeowner where a big generator was running 24/7, let along the noise and smell of NG fumes billowing out. This thing sucks gas at a huge rate... I'm sure much more inefficient than a large-scale NG powerplant, where they have the efficiency of scale.

When my generator started, there was no ignoring the raucous noise, and exhaust (typical NG exhaust smell).

Nuclear FTW... and solar, and wave, and win FTW*10.

/R

matthew.rings
16th September, 2009 @ 09:36 pm PDT

Can you see how they (Oil Corps) are doing anything, in conjunction with their greatest allies (Car Manufacturers) to keep the use of ICEs high.

In this day, we have so many alternative, cleaner, quieter, less costly (Annually) ways to produce energy for the home.

If the governments actually had the balls to MAKE the energy companies use alternative and clean forms of energy production, they would HAVE to step up to the plate, or you can be assured a competitor would do so.

Why oh why would anyone want to use ICE technology when we have so many other alternatives??? Think about and discuss.

The average home, with Roof Solar PV panels, plus water heating tubes, a couple of wind fan systems for the nightime top up of batteries, etc etc. In a couple of minutes I bet I could check around and come up with a cheaper and more efficient system than someone as huge as VW. This is absolute rubbish.

P

Pablo9176
18th September, 2009 @ 03:05 pm PDT

Several Points.

Methane, is what Natural gas mostly is, anything that can run on natural gas can run on "bio gas", cow farts, or however else you wish to make it. (hydrogen too, as natural gas is also partly hydrogen (in random quantities))

ICE what an idea, have these people not heard that there are these solid oxide fuel cells that are more efficient (and expensive, though production will reduce costs, and the power company can get you to sign a 100 year contract anyhow (in Germany especially) so who cares about the capital cost.

Distributed power has come of age. About time too. Shut the high voltage (energy waste) Grid down, local low voltage power grids only please.

The average household doesn't really use "that much" power, we are used to running car engines which produce 100 times the household need, at 1/4 the efficiency achievable with an optimised stationary generator.

MD
7th October, 2011 @ 02:16 am PDT
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