What is the current situation of the WAVE micro power plant? Several observations from its development
A team of our researchers in the LORCA laboratory of CTU UCEEB is developing a device that is capable of covering the consumption of heat and electricity of residential houses and of smaller local boiler houses.
The technology has already been awarded with the so-called environmental “Oscar”: the E. ON GLOBE AWARD 2015 in the Idea category. The WAVE micro power plant can be described as a fully-automated boiler for biomass (wooden chips in the ideal case; pellets after a modification) with associated production of electricity.
It is a local renewable source of energy with the heat output of 120 kW and the electric output of 6 kW that uses the principle of the so-called organic Rankine cycle (ORC). It is being cooled with heating water that is further used for technological purposes, for heating or for hot water preparation. Ordinary boilers consume electricity for their operation; unlike them, the WAVE unit produces electricity for its own consumption and it is also able to supply the excess electricity to the distribution network.
The first WAVE unit with the heat output of 50 kW and the electric output of 2 kW has undergone a long evolution since the time when it was put into operation in the LORCA laboratory at CTU UCEEB. This applies to the output as well as to the area of quality and efficiency of components used. A lot of effort was put into the partial redesign that included an exchange of the combustion chamber with fuel management and a modernization of exchangers for combustion products. On top of that, smaller partial modifications of several elements were performed, primarily in order to increase the useful electric output.
At present, the size of the unit makes it suitable e.g. as a power source for industrial operations where products of various kinds are being dried, for agricultural farms, for blocks of flats, for larger boarding houses, for community centers or for offices. According to the researches, the size of the unit could make it also suitable for households prospectively; however, due to construction regulations becoming stricter regarding the thermal-technical properties of new buildings, this will mean installations in older and historical family homesteads. Deployment in households will depend on economic successes and on the reliability on higher levels of deployment.
The advantages of the micro power plant include simple operating and the fact that it is practically maintenance-free thanks to self-cleaning mechanisms. At present, it can be also operated using a smartphone and it can send a notification in case of possible problems. The surveillance of the supplier over its operation within the service provisioning as well as the yearly professional inspections (which are also necessary if standard boilers are used) go without saying for pilot installations.
The WAVE micro power plant in the variant with the heat output of 50 kW and the electric power of 2 kW are being supplied for the first commercial installation at present and more pilot units are planned to be installed during the next year in order to check them properly in practice. Details of the first project will be published after putting the unit into operation this autumn. The implementation team is still looking for partners for similar projects. The progress of the project can be compared to building a standard boiler house for wooden chips; however, the interested party is aware of the relatively low level of verification of this technology. In return, it is possible to get very interesting grant funds for these installations. Therefore, the technology will appear on the “common” market as late as after partial verification which is expected to be in 2020.