Community grids and energy solutions
 
  Economies of scale and less spikes

Where possible we would like to impliment energy solutions for whole viliages or small housing estates, involving perhaps 100 or so houses. This is easier to do in India, Africa and parts of South America where there is no existing local energy infrastructure, but in the developed countries we really need new build projects and these are few in number and often over regulated.

The reason this idea appeals to us is that such solutions benefit from both economies of scale and fewer spikes in consumption. In the case of new build, where houses can be designed to be energy efficient from the ground up, such solutions can be much more effective and can beat the grid on price with tried and tested technology let alone the technology being developed in the laboratory. The solution we are planning for our own headquarters will be a community solution in a new build environment. We describe this in more detail below.

And new build offers other opportunities. Where the estate has a central car parking area, this can be covered with solar dishes. Because the number of solar dishes would be quite high, it would be economic to turn the excess power during the summer into hydrogen and then ammonia and store this is a large tank to fuel the CHP system in the winter. One large generator is a hell of a lot less than 100 small generators. Where normally any interface with the grid would be a small box of expensive and inefficeint electonics, the grid interface for the whole community would be a large box of more efficient electronics costing a tenth as much per house. One large stationary battery will cost a fraction of the price of 100 small ones. Where a solution for an individual house might have a small wind turbine a community can have one or several large wind turbines on tall towers. Because we are designing the houses from scratch and can therefore have sound insulation as sandard and because the towers would be tall, any noise nuicance would be significantly reduced. With 100 houses rather than one we can draw excess heat from the solar thermal panels (evactuated tube type of course), and heat a decent sized swiming pool. New build offers the opportunity to bury underground, a network of pipes to serve as the condensor for everyone's heat pump/air conditioner. Underground condensors are more efficient and reliable than open air ones which can freeze up in winter. And when anything goes wrong the bill for the repairs are often much the same for a large piece of equiptment as they are for a small piece and are shared by 100 housholders rather than one.

What a deal. A green solution that is cheaper to run and maintain than paying for dirty electricity and a pool thrown in. One can even go further and get rid of a few more utilities as well. If you go for the ammonia/CHP approach, this produces a huge amount of oxygen which can be used to run an incinerator which can also produce power and lower the garbage collection bill.

Our community solution

Our planned headquarters will be a farm giving us the advantage of space. We plan to build about 100 dwellings so that our scientists can if they so choose, eliminate the cost and the daily grind of a commute as well as have thier reduced utilities bills absorbed by the company. But the dwellings are not going to consume much of the power compared to the other activities on the site. We estimate an average draw of 35KW for the 100 dwellings, vary comparable to the draw due the data center that will also be on site. The labatory and the conference center will consume another 10KW on average. The bulk of the power will be used in the manufacturing of solar dishes and other equiptment, this we estimate to be 120KW and for obvious reasons we hope this will rise!

So initially we foresee an average draw of 200KW. That is 4,800 KWHr per day or just over 1.75 million KWHr per year. That is quite a tall order but one we are very confident we can meet and meet reliably and without ever resorting to burning fossil fuels or paying what the grid charges. Having the space of a farm helps a lot because we plan to have rather a lot of solar dishes and wind turbines. About 400 6 meter dishes and at least 10 wind turbines with a 10 meter blade diameter.

Sending a message

Our planned community energy solution meets a clear business need for power and at a competatie price. But it also sends out a message about what can be achieved even with very modest economies of scale. The farm will have a population density comparable to if not greater than that of England. Yet not only will it be capable of producing enough food to support it's population and enough energy to support a good lifetyle and a heavy industrial activity, it will be in relative terms, a huge net exporter of energy.

Back to top of page