Monday, 28 May 2007


It’s hard to believe that in a hundred years our homes will still get their electricity through wires strung between crooked, dried-out wooden poles. Sure, some wires are buried underground, but through much of the world, including the much of the supposedly advanced and sophisticated United States, the crooked old pole carries the juice. How crude.
It’s also hard to imagine power companies voluntarily burying their power lines purely for the sake of aesthetics.

Instead it seems possible that in 100 years (or hopefully less so this author can see it happen) we’ll be generating our own power - perhaps with solar on the roof, some kind of generation equipment in the basement or storage room, or in windy areas from a small wind turbine atop a pole nearby.

If solar is to be the norm (in sunny spots, of course) there’s some indication that home builders are beginning to catch on to the notion of solar power options for new homes. (This publication has published a number of stories over the years as examples.)
Now Centex Homes is taking the next logical step in solar self-generation options: include a battery back-up system as part of the solar package.

For 89 homes in The Quarry, a new development north of Naples, Florida, Centex will offer 2.1 kilowatt solar systems supplied by Sharp Solar. Included with the solar system will be a bank of eight, 100-amp/hour batteries housed in the garage to provide emergency power for critical appliances and a few outlets. The solar system will augment power from the grid and keep the batteries charged.

The solar with back-up systems seem a good match for the Sunshine State that has had its share of power outages due to hurricanes and other powerful storms. Predictions of a rise in the number of tropical storms, at least for the next decade or two, will likely be a selling point for the backed-up solar systems.

For areas with insufficient sunlight home combined heat and power generation equipment could be the norm in hundred years, or sooner.
Disenco Energy of the UK has announced it has reached important milestones leading to full commercialization, such as the completion of field trials for its home, micro combined heat and power plant (m-CHP). The company expects to begin a product roll out in the second quarter of 2008.

Operating at over 90 percent efficiency, the m-CHP will be able to provide 15 kilowatts of thermal energy (about 50,000 Btu’s) for heat and hot water and generate 3 kilowatts of electricity. The m-CHP uses a Stirling engine generator and would be a direct replacement for a home’s boiler.

Running on piped-in natural gas the unit would create some independence from the power grid, but still remain connected to the gas supply network.
Whereas heat is supplied only when the generator is running (or conversely electricity is generated only when heat is needed) a back-up battery system and heavily insulated hot water storage tank seem eventual options for more complete energy independence.

Visit Sharp Solar at

Centex Homes at

Disenco at

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