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?