Get your own micro-power station!

In February we wrote about residential natural gas fuel cells, which allow homeowners to create their own electricity and heat from natural gas.  The only catch is that fuel cells for residential energy consumption is still an emerging technology, and not everyone has access to natural gas lines.

Aside from fuel cells, another options for residential energy consumers is a micro-power station.  If you are tired of relying on your local utility or want to live off-grid, then a micro-power station may be a good option.   Quartus Technologies makes residential (and commercial) micro-power stations that use a fuel (fossil or renewable - keep reading) to charge a set of batteries that then provide electricity to your home.  The best part is that the systems can be configured to capture waste heat from the power generation process and you can get a hybrid system that uses Solar PV panels as well!  From the Quartus residential section:

This solution works in remote, isolated areas where there may not be utility access. It is also ideal for suburban areas where owners want control over their energy costs, and do not want to schedule around utility-designated peak energy time.

What’s more Quartus Technologies Inc. will specifically assemble your system based on exactly what you want! If you want just electricity – look at the Q1 System. Need hot water and electricity – Q2 System. For heat, hot water and electricity – Q3 System. We even have options for systems, which include air conditioning, pool heaters, electrical car chargers, and more.

Of course, if you are using regular old oil as a fuel, it does little to reduce fossil fuel consumption.  When I asked Quartus if their power stations can run on bio-fuels, their CEO responded:

Yes, we have fossil and non-fossil fuel systems.  Bio-fuel is becoming more accessible and we hope that Biomass production and availability will spread.  Our cleanest and lowest cost choice of fuel is natural gas and propane.  We make electricity and provide hot water, heating and cooling - all from the above fuels.

If bio-fuels are not available, producing electricity using natural gas is the cleanest way to do so using a fossil fuel, and it is way better than coal or oil!

I believe micro-power generation is the future (although long-term future) for our sustainable energy needs, and Quartus looks like they have a great solution for those interested in micro-power generation.  While an even "greener" solution would be completely renewable - solar thermal and solar PV (heat and electricity) or wind turbine (electricity only) or geothermal (heat only) - this may not be practical for everyone.  For instance, if the sun doesn't come out for 3 days and you're using solar, you may be left without power and worse, no hot water!   But an advantage of a pure renewable micro-power system that isn't available for Quartus: free fuel!

Potential micro-power systems owners just have to weigh the cost/benefit of micro-power generating systems: renewable, free, and intermittent (wind/solar/geothermal) vs. cleaner than coal, not-free but always reliable.  Personally, I like taking the best of both worlds and having a hybrid systems (bio-fuel and solar/wind), which Quartus also makes.

I'll end with a comparison done by Quartus of their system to other energy generation systems.  I wonder how their system compares to a natural gas fuel cell?

enjoyed our post? let others know: 


Hi Randy: There seems to be some confusion on how the Quartus system works. The Quartus System is not a geothermal system. This is essentially a small off grid power station (up to 36 kw) that uses a fully automated control system. People with these systems will enjoy seamless availability of electricity just as if they were configured to the grid. The added benefit is that the system also provides heat energy from the generation of the electrical energy. Quartus technology consists of a fuel delivery system (currently LP or natural gas), an appropriately sized battery storage bank, sine wave inverters, and generator(s). The liquid cooled engines on the generator(s) are equipped with highly effective devices that transfer the heat from both the operation of the engine itself and the exhaust system. Their system automation will also accept inbound power to charge the battery bank from wind, solar or virtually any source of electrical energy. With regards to the cogen portion of the system, the energy transfer is nothing short of amazing. I have placed my bare hand on the main exhaust pipe from 3 engines (all running) on a 30 kw system and it is like placing your hand on a filing cabinet in an office. Likewise, the heat extraction system from the internal operation of the engine itself is equally as efficient. This hot stored energy in the coolant tank is circulated through heat exchangers for in floor heating, domestic hot water, or even an "A" coil to heat a home with a forced air furnace. I do not work directly for Quartus, but I have provided technical direction to them on the safety, automation, and electrical distribution side of their systems. I have not been involved with the AC option of their system but my understanding is that they have both conventional and adsorption technologies available for this option depending on the requirements of the individual customer and their particular system. In my view, their system has a tremendous future as it produces electrical energy and extracts heat energy simultaneouosly in a highly efficient manner. Additionally, their systems will finally provide people building homes without immediate utility access with a grid like option at a realistic cost. If you require further information Randy, I would encourage you to contact Quartus Technologies via their web site. I must commend the staff at Quartus for all their hard work and the benefits their systems will bring to others. Cheers Lyn Mr.Lyn Chapman, General Manager, Energy Monitoring Systems Canada efergy manufacturers representative in Canada Cheers Lyn Chapman
ckmapawatt's picture
Randy, are you sure you don't have GE's hybrid water heater, like the one we mentioned here? This actually uses electricity and a heat pump to heat the water, not geothermal. You could use Geothermal to heat water to 50-60 deg F (temp of the geothermal ground loop), but you would have to dig very deep to get water to the 120 deg F your water heater should be set to. I don't currently know of a geothermal water heater that is a stand alone unit. You're right about using Geothermal to cool the home, it's also a geothermal heat pump: But their graph actually says "Air Conditioning option", which I guess is technically different than Geothermal, but maybe not.
You can't use geothermal to heat water or cool your home? I have some issues with this... 1. GE advertises a geothermal water heater. Matter of fact, I have that exact water heater. 2. Ground temperature is cool, unless you dig deep enough or your on a volcano or something. So you could cool your home with geothermal. Thats why your basement is always cold! 3. I also believe geothermal should be considered renewable because as long as nuclear fission takes place in the core of the Earth we'll never run out of the heat. Also you can always cool buildings in most places with geothermal (who lives on top of geysers anyway?)
I think the first two posts are clueless when it comes to geothermal systems. These systems take the energy from the earth and concentrate it. For example my system take in 50 degree water and using a compressor creates 120 degree temperatures to heat my home in the winter. In the summer it runs in reverse and takes the heat from the home and concentrates it into the water and cools the home. They are better at cooling since it only needs to concentrate the 50 degree water to 35 degrees in the cooling mode. It takes more energy to concentrate the 50 degree water into 120 degree temperatures. You don't need to live on a geyser to benifit from this, but if you did that would make you heating bill pretty cheap!
Sounds interesting, please forward information including prices on a 3-5kw unit. Interested in connecting wind power to the system.

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