Updated: Apr 10
The fight against climate change has to be fought on many front lines. Some are very visible, some less so.
With that in mind: What is microgeneration and is it worth it?
What is microgeneration ?
Microgeneration is quite simply the generation of energy (usually electricity or heat) on site for local consumption.
It is the natural solution in remote areas but has become more widespread.
Applications of microgeneration
The most well known application are the now almost ubiquitous photovoltaic cells on the roof.
Solar panels on a roof
The electricity generated by solar cells can then be used in two ways:
A) It can be used directly (or stored in batteries), and
B) it can be fed into the local or national grid.
In the first case, the economic incentive is a reduction in the electricity bill.
In the second case it is usually some remuneration scheme under which the electricity provider pays for the electricity fed into the grid.
Other forms of energy, however, may also be used, for example wind power.
While wind power is usually associated with massive turbines on pylons standing around in the country- or seaside smaller turbines that can be fixed onto roofs are also available.
In addition, there is also a relatively new form of harnessing wind power called vibro-wind power.
Its operating principle is the piezo-electric effect. That means that it generates electricity in response to applied mechanical stress (the wind).
Heat can be obtained from the ground, either:
by using the gradient between ambient temperature and the temperature some six meters in the ground or b
by drilling deep holes to harness geothermal power, i.e. pumping cold water down the earth and getting hot water back up.
Heat pumps — Air Source — Future Solution UK
The latter technology, however, is generally unsuitable for microgeneration as the capex for boreholes going to such depths is very high.
Exceptions are places like Iceland where hot aquifers are frequently found near the surface, sometimes even breaking through as geysers.
What this very brief overview is meant to show is that there are many ways in which individuals and businesses can potentially contribute to using less fossil fuels.
Doing so is undoubtedly an investment and the rate at which it will pay off will depend on the structure of the remuneration schemes.
Micro-generated electricity is subject to the same laws of supply and demand as everything else and if too many people invest in solar panels with a view to generating some income from it, the price for the kW/h of electricity fed back into the grid will undoubtedly decrease and eventually approach the price for the kW/h taken from the grid.