Main energy conversion machinery used and to be used in cogeneration systems are schematically described. Some assets of the distributed generation are pointed out and small-scale cogeneration systems designed for energy units of distributed cogeneration are described. In the small scale, turbines and bearings are a source of specific problems connected with securing stable rotor operation. Accepted has been two kinds of high speed micro-turbines of electric power about 3 KW with multistage axial and radial rotors supported on foil bearings. A concept which becomes more and more attractive takes into account a low-boiling agent, which is normally used in the thermal cycle of the micro-turbine, as the lubricating liquid in the bearings (so-called ORC based systems). Of some importance is the operation of these machines at a low noise emission level, sine being parts of the household equipment they could disturb the calm of the residents. The scope of the present article is limited to the discussion of dynamic characteristics of the selected design. The properties of the rotor combined with slide bearings (foil bearings in this particular case) were taken under investigation. A combination of this type is a certain novelty since a typical modal analysis of such objects refers to a rotor itself. Analysing the dynamic state of the "home" power plants requires qualitatively novel research tools.
The implementation of micro scale combined heat and power systems is one of the ways to improve the energy security of consumers. In fact, there are many available large and medium scale cogeneration units, which operate according to the Rankine Cycle. Due to European Union demands in the field of using renewable energy sources and increasing energy efficiency result in the importance of additionally developing systems dedicated for use in residential buildings, farms, schools and other facilities. This paper shows the concept of introducing thermoelectric generators into typical wood stoves: steel plate wood stoves and accumulative wood stoves. Electricity generated in thermoelectric generators (there were studies on both three market available units and a prototypical unit developed by the authors) may be firstly consumed by the system (to power controller, actuators, fans, pumps, etc.). Additional power (if available) may be stored in batteries and then used to power home appliances (light, small electronics and others). It should be noted that commercially available thermoelectric generators are not matched for domestic heating devices – the main problems are connected with an insufficient heat flux transmitted from the stove to the hot side of the generator (caused e.g. by the non -homogeneous temperature distribution of the surface and bad contact between the stove and the generator) and inefficient cooling. To ensure the high efficiency of micro cogeneration systems, developing a dedicated construction both of the generator and the heat source is necessary.
In this article, a comparison of economic effectiveness of various heating systems dedicated to residential applications is presented: a natural gas-fueled micro-cogeneration (micro-combined heat and power – μCHP) unit based on a free-piston Stirling engine that generates additional electric energy; and three so-called classical heating systems based on: gas boiler, coal boiler, and a heat pump. Calculation includes covering the demand for electricity, which is purchased from the grid or produced in residential system. The presented analyses are partially based on an experimental investigation. The measurements of the heat pump system as well as those of the energy (electricity and heat) demand profiles in the analyzed building were conducted for a single-family house. The measurements of the μCHP unit were made using a laboratory stand prepared for simulating a variable heat demand. The overall efficiency of the μCHP was in the range of 88.6– 92.4%. The amounts of the produced/consumed energy (electricity, heat, and chemical energy of fuel) were determined. The consumption and the generation of electricity were settled on a daily basis. Operational costs of the heat pump system or coal boiler based heating system are lower comparing to the micro-cogeneration, however no support system for natural gas-based μCHP system is included.
Straw-fired batch boilers, due to their relatively simple structure and low operating costs, are an excellent source of heat for a wide range of applications. A concept prototype of a cogeneration system with a straw-fired batch boiler was developed. The basic assumptions were based on the principles of the Rankine Cycle and the Organic Rankine Cycle systems with certain design modifications. Using the prototype design of a system that collects high-temperature heat from the boiler, studies were performed. The studies involved an analysis of the flue gas temperature distribution in the area of the oil exchanger, a comparison of the instantaneous power of the boiler’s water and oil circuits for different modes of operation, as well as an analysis of the flue gas. In the proposed system configuration where the electricity production supplements heat generation, the power in the oil circuit may be maintained at a constant level of approx. 20-30 kW. This is possible provided that an automatic fuel supply system is applied. Assuming that the efficiency of the electricity generation system is not less than 10%, it will be possible to generate 2-3 kW of electricity. This value will be sufficient, for an on-site operation of the boiler.