Microgeneration as an alternative to coal
Microgeneration is the generation of zero or low-carbon heat and power by individuals, small businesses and communities to meet their own needs.
The most commonly used and widely available microgeneration technologies include:
- Micro wind turbines - Small turbines with a blade span of 2 to 5 m that can be fixed to the roof of a building or a mast nearby. The efficiency of a micro turbine depends on the location and the surrounding environment.
- Photovoltaic (PV) electricity - Solar PV cells convert energy from the sun into electricity. PV cells contain one or two layers of semiconducting material, usually silicon. The cells are grouped into arrays – large flat panels which can be fixed to the roof of a building. The electricity produced is then transformed from DC (direct current) to AC (alternating current) using an inverter installed within the building.
- Ground source heat pumps - These use a vertical or horizontal loop buried in the ground which transfers heat from the ground into a building. It can then be used to provide space heating or to heat domestic hot water.
- Solar water heating panels - These are used to heat water using energy from the sun. They are composed of solar panels or collectors fitted to the roof – these can be either flat plate systems or evacuated tube systems.
- Combined Heat and Power - This is a highly efficient method of generating electricity because the heat produced during the generation of power – using a gas turbine, engine or steam turbine – can be recovered and used to provide hot water for space heating.
There are also:
- Micro hydro systems - Small hydro systems that produce power from the flow of water.
- Mini wind turbines - These generate electricity from the energy in the wind striking the turbine. Free-standing mini turbines are most effective when located in windy areas remote from buildings or other obstructions.
2008 UK Report
A 2008 United Kingdom report by the Department for Business, Energy, and Regulatory Reform (DBERR) found that a combination of loans, grants, and incentives could lead to nearly 10m microgeneration systems being installed by 2020, generating as much electricity in a year as five nuclear power stations and saving 30 million tonnes of CO2 – the equivalent of nearly 5% of all UK electricity. To spur development the report recommended a "feed-in" tariff scheme that would reward people who invest in making their own electricity for feeding excess power into the national grid, and 50% grants to help meet the high initial cost of equipment and installation (or, alternatively, low-interest "soft loans" payable over 25 years).
Articles and resources
Related SourceWatch articles
- Thermal solar power as an alternative to coal
- Photovoltaic power as an alternative to coal
- Wind power as an alternative to coal
- Renewable energy
- alternative fuels
- CLEAN Energy Act of 2007
- climate change / global warming
- Energy Bulletin
- National Commission on Energy Policy
- National Energy Policy
- U.S. tax breaks for renewable energy
- "What is microgeneration?" James Keirstead, September 13, 2005
- Julia Simpkins,"Microgeneration: An Overview: How Families and Businesses Can Generate Their Own Power" Suite101.com, January 22, 2008
- Jeremy Harrison,"Microgeneration Technologies" Microgeneration, accessed December 2009
- John Vidal,"Microgeneration could rival nuclear power, report shows" Guardian UK, June 2, 2008
Comparison of Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power: http://www.ieer.org/ensec/no-1/comffnp.html