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Published on September 15th, 2009 | by Susan Kraemer


Volkswagen to Make Electricity in Your Basement

September 15th, 2009 by  

We are used to the idea of powering our homes from our roofs, by now. But what if we could get our electricity from the basement? From what’s already down there… heating our homes.

Everyone who uses natural gas to supply heat and to heat water, could be tapping into that heat to make their own electricity as well with a CHP unit. Unlike solar or wind power, this energy source could be supplying electric power both day and night, and whether it’s windy or not.

And who better to make such a unit but an auto company that has already put in some design time making natural gas engines work more efficiently. Volkswagen wants to make electricity in your basement.

If you live in Germany. For now.

Volkswagen has formed a partnership with German energy supplier LichtBlick to build combined heat and power plants which are to be driven by high efficiency Volkswagen natural gas engines.

Obviously for the homeowner this means that as well as the option of making your own power on the roof, now there is the option of getting a supply from your basement as well. But it is not primarily individual homeowners who would be the beneficiaries of Volkswagen’s decentralized electricity swarm in their own basement. Not directly, at least.

These units would send bursts of power, as needed, to the grid.  Each unit will connect to a grid operations center, and will be able to provide power on demand to the grid. So LichtBlick will market the EcoBlue CHP home power plants to municipalities as a new, decentralized intelligent power supply scheme aptly named the SchwarmStrom or “swarm of electricity”.

What the electrical current “swarm” refers to is that 100,000 of these units in a town would effectively constitute a 2,000 megawatt natural gas power plant. Just a decentralized one.

“The home power plants together form a huge, invisible power station that doesn’t make the countryside ugly or require additional infrastructure.” says LichtBlick.

Lichtblick said the plan was that tens of thousands of generators could be mobilized to meet a surge in demand or if drought made it hard to cool nuclear plants or a calm spell idled wind turbines.

Conventional base-load power plants cannot be started up or shut down fast enough to compensate for fluctuations in power supply from solar or wind energy units as a result of changing weather conditions.

“Gas plants have an advantage over nuclear power stations in that the heat produced by the latter is wasted”, Claudia Kemfert; the DIW research institute energy expert said, in evaluating the EcoBlue. 

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About the Author

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.

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