Small is beautiful – scientist proposes new efficient and eco-friendly power plants

September 26, 2005

Power plants of the future may be designed to provide electricity solely for an individual housing estate, village, factory or college. That’s the prediction of University of Southampton engineer Dr Tom Markvart.

He claims large-scale systems of electricity generation used at present waste considerable amounts of energy by producing unwanted heat. It is also difficult to incorporate environmentally-friendly sources of energy such as wind farms and solar panels because of their intermittent and unpredictable outputs.

Dr Markvart, of the University’s School of Engineering Sciences (SES), is advocating the development of microgrids to provide a stable and reliable power supply from various energy sources. Small-scale generating equipment sited close to the eventual energy users could act as a stand-alone source of power, especially in remote areas, or be linked to the national grid. Energy storage devices would provide extra power at times of high demand. The proximity to customers would help boost energy efficiency to around 80 per cent compared to 35-40 per cent for a conventional generation system.

‘In the long term, microgrids offer the promise of substantial energy savings and reduction in emissions, without a major change in our lifestyle,’ said Dr Markvart.

Initiatives to test small-scale energy generation are already underway. They include the former Mont-Cenis coal mine in Germany, where a microgrid powers an academy, hospital and nearby housing. Ecologically-friendly ways of energy production include the Southampton Geothermal Project, which uses hot water from deep beneath the city.

Dr Markvart’s research appears in the latest edition of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Ingenia magazine. The research was carried out in collaboration with, amongst others, Dr Suleiman Abu-Sharkh (SES) and Dr Neil Ross (School of Electronics and Computer Science), both also at the University of Southampton.

Source: University of Southampton

Explore further: The future of nuclear energy

Related Stories

The future of nuclear energy

November 28, 2016

Early this year, Rachel Slaybaugh attended a campus mixer on technological innovation. When she introduced herself as a professor of nuclear engineering, other attendees would pause and ask for clarification. She remembers, ...

Sun setting on Japan's solar energy boom

November 30, 2016

The sun is setting on Japan's clean-energy boom, despite projects like a massive floating solar farm near Tokyo, as the government cuts subsidies and bets on nuclear and coal-fired power, critics say.

Reconciling solar energy and heritage preservation

November 29, 2016

EPFL researchers have developed a method to assess the aesthetic impact of solar panels on buildings and to set objective criteria for where they should be placed. Some municipal governments could apply this method as early ...

Recommended for you

Saturn's bulging core implies moons younger than thought

December 7, 2016

Freshly harvested data from NASA's Cassini mission reveals that Saturn's bulging core and twisting gravitational forces offer clues to the ages of the planet's moons. Astronomers now believe that the ringed planet's moons ...

Dark matter may be smoother than expected

December 7, 2016

Analysis of a giant new galaxy survey, made with ESO's VLT Survey Telescope in Chile, suggests that dark matter may be less dense and more smoothly distributed throughout space than previously thought. An international team ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.