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Preprint of an article published in
"The Bridge", National Academy of Engineering Summer 2003
Microgeneration Technology : Shaping Energy Markets
Robert W. Shaw, Jr.
Robert W. Shaw, Jr., is president of Aretê Corporation.
Over the last few decades, developments in technology have incrementally refined the way energy is produced and delivered to customers. But in fundamental ways the energy system remains much as it was in the 1950s. Nuclear reactor technology has the potential to create a paradigm shift in the electric-generation sector, but because of public concerns about reactor safety and waste disposal, its promise has not been fully realized.
Today technology development supported by government and the private sector that has been under way for decades has begun to yield microgeneration systems that are now available commercially and are beginning to penetrate energy markets. The emergence of microgeneration technologies could lead to paradigm shifts in two key elements of the energy delivery system: distributed generation and hydrogen systems.
Distributed Generation. Based on a number of newly commercial technologies for power generation, such as fuel cells, as well as substantial refinements in traditional, engine-based systems, we can now envisage an electric system in which power is generated very close to the load being served; the generators will be several orders of magnitude smaller (i.e., 10 to 1,000 kW) than traditional utility generation stations of 100 to 1,000 MW. Distributed generation systems will have several advantages over the existing central station / electric grid system:
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