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FUTURE ENERGY TRENDS
Distributed generation or “micro- power” systems refer to the use of small localized power production systems to generate electrical power for a specific on-site application. The United States currently relies on large centralized power stations that relay electrical power over long distances to millions of end users. New technologies such as solar cells, microturbines, fuel cells and wind generators are now available that can reliably generate power at levels as low as one kilowatt. Most commercial applications require no more than 1-10 kilowatts and “micro-power” systems offer better scale of application than large centralized power systems. Continued technological advances in micro-power systems are likely to accelerate the trend of downsizing power generating systems.
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. The heat from combustion of hydrogen is two to three times greater than other fuels and the byproduct of burning hydrogen is simply water. Hydrogen can be produced from petroleum products, natural gas or
CHARACTERISTICS OF DISTRIBUTED GENERA TION:
• Micro-power systems are modular allowing units to be added or removed to match the energy demand.
• The systems can offer a high quality constant voltage which is critical for the now prolific computer based business systems.
• Micro-power systems can be less susceptible to interruptions in supply that can sometimes arise from centralized power systems (California brownouts, 2001).
• These systems promote a more diverse, renewable energy based mix that can readily take advantage of resources specific to a region such as wind power with one or two wind turbine towers used to meet a local business’ or schools’ needs.
• Micro-power systems facilitate co-generation energy strategies where “waste” heat from the electrical power production system (such as a gas micro-turbine) is used to provide space heating needs, heat water or to provide heat for a manufacturing processes. Such co- generation strategies can result in significant energy savings and help conserve resources by producing only the amount of power required directly at its point of application.
• The trend towards distributed generation also reduces the need to expand or upgrade current power distribution lines and can be configured to meet local needs more precisely.
• Fuel cells and micro-turbine systems can be highly technical, are often computer controlled and make home maintenance impractical.
• Electrical power is still often least expensive when purchased from a large utility power plant.
• Environmental emissions from multiple small on-site power systems can present regulatory challenges.
Energy For Missouri: Today and Tomorrow - Educator's Guide
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