Lichtblick, a German based Energy Company specializing in environmentally friendly systems, has been working on a new in-house energy system that could very well replace large nuclear or coal burning power plants. Even more interesting, is that Volkswagen is now on-board with the business plan and providing funding to get the project moving.
The whole plan is centered on households, hundreds or even thousands, installing a mini power station in their basements, garages, or where they can find the space. These mini energy plants will run on natural gas and will not only be able to provide energy and hot water for the house in which it is installed, but also dump excess power back into the grid. According to Lichtblick, if enough houses are equipped with one of these units, it will essentially take the place of a larger power station, without the pollution normally associated with them.
While this is all well and good, why would VW want to take part in development such as this? Apparently, Volkswagen has also been working behind the curtains trying to develop an efficient thermal power plant. "Much of what you need to manufacture a mini powerplant is already found in ultra-modern automobiles," says powertrain development director, Rudolf Krebs. This is likely the reason behind Lichtblick borrowing the natural gas powered engines already found in some of VW's Golf vehicles.
The little engine comes in at about 92% efficient when used in a household application. This is due mainly to the amount of heat being generated while in operation. Usually, heat is the enemy of small engines, and we try to keep as much of it away from the engine bay as possible. When being used to heat a house however, that same heat is now going to boost the overall efficiency of the system.
To bring this into perspective, the average nuclear or coal-firing power plant sets right at about 35%. Even the most technologically advanced can only reach as high as 60% when operating in ideal conditions.
The plan for distribution of the mini power plants is equally as appealing. If you own a home and have decided to replace your worn out heating system, you can have Lichtblick install one of the more efficient units and dispose of your old one, all for a fee of $7300. Once up and running, all maintenance and repairs on the system will covered and by the company. The only thing coming out of the pocket of the homeowner is directly related to how much power they use. The company claims this will be substantially lower than using a traditional system.
The homeowner will also receive a bonus at the end of the year based on how much money their individual unit makes for the companies. This will be calculated by a centralized system that will pull data from every unit in place over the course of the year. The specially designed system will also be able to optimize their production during times of increased usage, such as a sudden drop in temperature or during a severe storm.
The mini power plants are currently being tested and could be ready for installation by the end of next year. No word if Lichtblick is planning to offer the technology to North America.