MICRO RENEWABLE ENERGY LABORATORY

GEORGIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

DANIEL GUGGENHEIM SCHOOL OF AEROSPACE ENGINEERING

ATLANTA GEORGIA 30332-0150


WHY MICRO?

There is today a great clamoring for Renewable Energy systemsto replace fossil-burning power generators. Nations around the world are gearing up to invest huge amounts of money in developing massive nuclear, hydroelectric, wind, solar, biofuel, geothermal and tidal power generators.Let us look at the numbers for a moment:


Terrestrial primary power generation capacity today is over 4 Terawatts. That is 4,000 Gigawatts, or 4 Million Megawatts.The vast majority of this power generation comes from burning coal, followed by other hydrocarbons such as petroleum derivatives and natural gas. The rough thumbrule is that 1 watt of installed capacity costs around 1 US Dollar ($1/watt). Thus one additional Megawatt should cost around $1M when done at the large scale needed to become efficient.


Thus, to replace 4 Terawatts would take 4,000 Billion US Dollars, or $4 Trillion.


Now let us look closer to home and watch the process of setting up, say, 4 Gigawatts of capacity, the size of a typical modern power plant. Look at the newspaper and TV headlines, the court battles, and all the ugly mess surrounding the establishment of such a plant. In general, it takes roughly 10 years for such a plant to be developed from the design stage, to when it actually starts generating power. Until then, all the money invested in the plant is sunk, costing interest every year and generating no revenue.


Every day of these ten years, there is sunshine, or rain or blowing winds, going waste, that could have been used to generate clean power. The sun and rain are certainly widespread, the wind less so. To exploit these, we would need devices to capture and harness the power, distributed over the entire landscape. This requires a massively distributed architecture. We would need these to come up on the property of millions of people, and need their attention to keep them operating well. On the other hand, all these people also need electric power, so we would be generating at least some of the power that they need, at the point of use, greatly reducing the need to transmit the power over long distances.


How much power generation capacity would you place on the property of each family? About enough for their needs. This is about 1 to 3 Kilowatts. This is the first target of Micro Renewable Energy Systems: they are systems suitable for one family.


There is also a need for considerably smaller systems, ranging from a few watts to a kilowatt.



Why micro