The continuing growth of decentralized energy is characterized by innovative, sometimes brand new, solutions – often employing more than one type of generator alongside smart control systems – to bring local energy generation to new parts of the economy.

How about the application of microturbine technology from Capstone to a textile mill in Portugal where, unusually, thermal energy from the exhaust stream is used directly to fire one of the processes at the mill? Or the use of 25 small biomass-fuelled cogeneration units being installed by Germany’s Spanner Re2 to provide heat to a large glasshouse complex in Japan? The installation, to include the entire wood-chip logistics system, including fuel drying, will be Spanner’s fifth biomass plant in Japan.
Capstone CEO Darren Jamison speaking at POWER-GEN

The installation of a whole series of 1.75 MWe and 3 MWth units is just one example of a clear move from small, single-unit projects to larger, multi-unit ‘cascade’ installations, says the company. And Capstone CEO Darren Jamison concurs.

He calls the company’s Portugal project a blueprint for textile mills all over Europe with significant market disruption potential: ‘Every high-profile CHP project in a new market or geography is another straw on the electric utilities back and, at some point in the near future, I believe we will wake up to a new energy reality where clean and efficient on-site CHP, behind the meter, is the new world norm.’

More innovation? Romania’s Energy-Serv is working with Norwegian and Italian partners to develop what it calls ‘CHP battery’ technology – in which excess wind-generated electricity is diverted from the power grid to feed an electric boiler. The boiler heats thermal oil, which is stored on-site for later use as feedstock for an Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) generator – which in turn produces heat and power for use on-site. The innovative concept is based on tried and tested technology and offers flexibility benefits to wind farm operators and power grid operators alike, and a new ‘fuel’ source for heat users.

Modern, decentralized energy solutions have little in common with traditional power stations of the past – one-off designs, high efficiencies and flexibility of operation are the new watchwords, and projects are getting bigger.