Sunpower Unveils 2007 Micro Co-Generation Technology
Device uses Stirling engine to efficiently burn natural gas to generate
heat and 1 kW of electricity. Designed for kitchen installation in
Europe. Brings distributed energy concept home.
by Tim Ventura
to view Tim Ventura's interview with a Sunpower representative at the
STAIF 2006 product-exhibitor Sunpower Inc. unveiled the Microgen Combined
Heat & Power (microCHP) system, an innovative electrical co-generation unit
scheduled to hit the European consumer market in 2007 through British appliance
distributor Microgen, Inc. The Microgen system is powered by natural gas and
utilizes a free-piston Stirling-cycle engine to generate both a kilowatt of 50hz
electrical energy in addition to home water-heating for domestic cooking &
The Sunpower/Microgen marketing strategy is to target residential homes in
Western Europe currently utilizing natural-gas fired boilers typically mounted
on a kitchen cabinet. The high-reliability and low operating noise of the
Microgen free-piston Stirling design allows the company to replace these boilers
with a co-generation unit featuring both the low-noise and high-reliability of a
kitchen refrigerator, while additionally producing a kilowatt of direct
electrical energy and complete home-water heating needs.
The Microgen system takes a unique approach to generating electricity, as
pressure-waves in liquid drive the Stirling-cycle piston through an alternator
to produce current. The pressure wave itself is created by a large temperature
differential when the gas-flame heats the top of the Stirling engine while the
bottom of the engine is cooled by an incoming water-return from a radiator
system. Thus, the device is essentially powered by waste-heat redirected for
water & radiative heating, which in turn sets up the required
pressure-differential to power the electrical generation unit.
This 3-minute interview takes place during the device's first public showing at
STAIF 2006, where we get a rare cutaway-view of the internal components and an
engineering overview in what's next in free-piston Stirling-cycle technology.
The technology itself is flexible & scalable enough to allow future versions
of the device to run on oil, liquid petroleum gas, and a variety of other fuels.
The final selling point for this technology is it's compliance with Kyoto
environmental-treaty regulations -- with the claim that if every home in the UK
utilized this new Microgen technology, it could contribute to as much as 25% of
the UK's required Kyoto-treaty obligations.
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Page posted by Sterling
D. Allan March 3, 2006
Last updated December 24, 2014