hondanews.com tells us that the American Honda Motor Company will be providing to Massachusetts based Climate Energy, LLC an innovative form of home heat and power technology. The micro combined heat and power (Micro CHP) is cogeneration technology for the home.
Until now, cogeneration has been relegated to industry application and other special uses. Now a compact Honda cogeneration unit will be available for home use. Climate Energy will combine the Honda micro-CHP with a furnace or boiler and market the entire system as an alternative to conventional space heating and electric power in new and existing homes. Working in coordination with state and local authorities as well as energy utilities, limited in-home field test installations will occur by late 2005, with more widespread distribution planned from fall 2006.
Honda, which already is known for making quiet emergency backup generators has combined their sine wave inverter technology with a small natural gas-powered internal combustion engine developed specifically for this application. The ultra-quiet unit will generate up to three kilowatts of thermal output per hour and one kilowatt of electricity with minimal vibration. A similar version of Honda’s cogeneration unit has been available for general use in Japan since March of 2003, and is now in more than 15,000 homes, lending the technology a track record of reliability.
The complete Climate Energy Micro-CHP system powered by Honda results in more than 85 percent efficiency in converting fuel energy into useful heat and electric power. This represents a very large improvement over conventional heating appliances and grid-supplied electric power, and will ultimately provide consumers with a substantial savings in their heating and electrical bills.
It is a good bet that other makers of generators and auxiliary power units are watching the results of the in-home field testing in the Mass test market. There already are other micro combined heat and power systems on the global market. For instance, there are cases of the previously mentioned Capstone microturbine being used for CHP in commercial settings rather than residential. Whisper Tech (shown above is the Whisper Gen AC On Grid) and Micro Gen BG are other possibilities. The Whisper Tech and Micro Gen systems are even more innovative since they utilize an external combustion Stirling engine.
These micro combined heat and power systems s can be “off-grid” or “grid-tied”. If connected to the Grid they come under the heading of distributed generation. As the Grid has come under more strain, the utility companies have become more tolerant of large-scale CHP. Micro-CHP presents different challenges. Previously, utility companies through strict regulation would resist the incursion of what is referred to as “micropower”. This could include treehuggers with photovoltatics, windmills and other sorts of renewable energy.
As the number of requests by utility companies for transmission relief increases and the Grid grows smarter, there is a change in policy occuring. The thinking goes something along these lines (hee-hee): “Yes, we can encourage conservation; and, still people will want heat and hot water, so while meeting those energy needs why not also reduce other energy needs and possibly contribute something to the energy supply.” As a result, nationally, regionally and locally there is greater acceptance of micro CHP leading to greater acknowledgement of micro power generation in general.