This report investigated the Stirling engine, the concept of micro-cogeneration, and the application of Stirling engines in micro-cogeneration. The Stirling engine is a piece of “old” technology that has received attention in recent years thanks to the growing interest in cogeneration and renewable energy. With its fuel flexibility, quiet operation, and easy-to-harvest waste heat, Stirling engines have the potential to proliferate in domestic heating and power applications. However, Stirling engines face competition in the micro-cogeneration area from other technologies such as the cheaper and more developed internal combustion engines and the more advanced and electrically efficient fuel cells. To become more competitive and attractive to the consumer, Stirling engine based micro-CHP units need to drop in price and achieve higher electrical efficiency (particularly in the smaller models).
The concept of micro-cogeneration has the potential to make a significant impact on the energy market, particularly in the area of household energy consumption. The benefits of micro-cogeneration are numerous and include savings on utilities bill, lower emissions, higher total energy efficiency, and lower congestion on the power transmission grid. However, micro-cogeneration also has many challenges and concerns standing in its way. These include high unit costs, impact on fuel supply, impact on the electricity grid, and the lack of government policy in many areas. For micro-cogeneration to proliferate and become successful, system costs must be brought down, and governments, utilities, and other relevant institutions must work together to provide a framework to support widespread distributed generation. Despite the challenges, micro-cogeneration has gained footholds in some markets such as the United Kingdoms and Japan, and it will likely spread in the coming years due to continued innovation, rising fossil fuel prices and the movement towards greener and more efficient energy usage.
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