Technology 999 days ago

Energy-independency with nanoFlowcell® power

Most consumers' energy costs increase continuously year on year. While there is more emphasis put on economical use of electricity and heating, continued price increases by energy suppliers more than offset any savings. Furthermore, clean energy isn't available everywhere. The solution would be a house that would be entirely energy independent without the use of external energy like oil, gas or power from the grid. Something that for a long time looked like it would be only possible in a test environment can now be affordable for regular consumers: a house entirely detached from the grid, supplied with environmentally friendly and affordable nanoFlowcell® energy. As part of the energy revolution, nanoFlowcell® will become a fixed feature of the sustainable energy mix.

The idea of building a house that doesn't need a connection to public energy supply is not a new one. For research or demonstration purposes, there have been a number of model homes built - be it by research institutes or numerous construction companies - which would not need an external energy supply. But in most cases, these were costly demonstration projects, which is why experts agreed that an energy independent house would not be affordable for regular consumers. (>) With more and more sources of regenerative energy becoming affordable to access, the zero-energy house is also becoming more affordable. However, it is by no means cheap as - depending on geographical location - absolute energy independence requires access to several energy sources at the same time, which doesn't make financial sense for a private household - especially as not all forms of regenerative energy are available everywhere in sufficient quantity and quality.

More and more private energy consumers want to detach themselves from (inter)national energy policies and meet their energy needs on their own. Many forms of renewable energy are available for environmentally friendly power generation in private households. But do the investments in the high-tech of renewable energy sources pay off for individual private households? What are the advantages of nanoFlowcell®, a single power source to cover a houshold's heating and electricity needs?

Renewable energies in almost limitless supply and still too expensive?

Regenerative energy production describes the harvesting of energy, mostly electric energy, from regenerative sources. Those are forms of energy that either are able to regenerate themselves continuously or seem to be available in never ending abundance. Regenerative energies are solar power, wind power, hydro power or bio energy. Regenerative energy can be used to produce electric energy for heating or the generation of hot water.

Ignoring the dramatic rhetoric of individual nations, the use of regenerative energy is a way to address the increasing shortage of fossil fuels while presenting itself as an alternative to nuclear energy or the hazardous burning of fossil energy sources like coal, oil or natural gas.

The sun as an energy source can produce electric as well as thermal energy. While the transformation of sunlight into electric energy is called photovoltaics, solar thermal energy is the generation of heat from solar energy. Through the use of a wind generator in small wind turbines, wind energy can also be used to produce electric energy for domestic use.

Another form of alternative energy is the heat pump. Geothermal heat is used not only to heat the house but also to generate warm water. Energy production from biomass is often wrongly called regenerative energy, too. In biomass plants, the energy stored in wood, energy plants or residual materials like bio waste, straw or manure is transformed into heat, electricity or fuels. The term biomass also encompasses heat generation by means of a pellet heater. However, the energy sourced from biomass is only partly regenerative as the source is often bio waste which should be avoided altogether from the outset. In the same way, precious farmland should not be used for growing crop plants for energy production.

The electrolyte bi-ION which is used for energy generation in the nanoFlowcell® is also a regenerative energy source which is generated through the use of energy from other regenerative energy sources. In contrast to energy generation from biomass, the use of bi-ION does not produce any damaging greenhouse gases, nor is farmland inappropriately used.

Energy generation from water for private dwellings is very unusual and will therefore be excluded from this overview of alternative energy sources for private households.

The following diagram provides an overview over the pros and cons of individual forms of regenerative energy suitable for private use.

The renewable energy house

In sample homes, efforts have been made to create individual energy independence by cleverly connecting solar thermal energy and photovoltaics. When installing solar thermal energy and photovoltaic systems on the roof it would be advisable to have suitable roof space. Ideally, this would be pointing southwards and be free of shade from trees or neighbouring buildings.

In the case of solar thermal energy, solar energy generated through solar panels is stored in a long-term storage unit for use in heating and warm water generation. This can cover part of the annual demand for heat, mostly in the form of warm water. But only partly, as the rest of the heat demand, for example for heating purposes during winter months, would need to be covered by external sources like electric energy, oil, gas or wood. The price for a heat-supporting solar thermal energy system for a household of four people can be as high as 12,000 euros with an amortization period of up to 21 years. (>)

Electric energy in an alternative-energy house is sourced from a photovoltaics system installed on the roof which, of course, competes with the solar energy system's solar panels for the sunniest spot. The roof area of a typical German family home is ca. 40 to 50 m². 10 m² of roof area is needed to generate 1kW of energy. As long as there are no shaded areas or roof structures in the way, such a system can generate 3 to 5 kW of power which would result in ca. 2,500 to 5,000 kWh of electric energy generated over a year. This amount of electric energy is enough to supply a family of four people for a year - however, only under the most perfect conditions of sufficient roof space as well as solar intensity and radiation at levels of 100%. Depending on the region, the electric energy generated by a photovoltaics system is significantly lower. How much does a photovoltaics system for a family home cost? Photovoltaics systems for family homes start at ca. 14,000 euros (solar modules, electricity storage battery and installation). In addition, annual running costs of about 320 euros can be expected for photovoltaics insurance, service and maintenance as well as meter fees. The amortization period for a photovoltaics system for an average family home can be 17 years at best. (>)

An alternative to the solar energy system is a small wind turbine. The average specific investment costs, which is the cost per kW power for small wind turbines (under 100 kW) comes to 5,000 euros per kW. A small wind turbine delivering 5 kW power output intended to cover the energy demands for a family household with four people will thus cost around 25,000 euros. However, this varies greatly as it depends on mast height and the necessary foundations. Mast and foundations together can cost more than the wind turbine itself. In sample family homes, there have been attempts to create individual energy independence by cleverly combining solar thermal energy and photovoltaics. When installing a solar thermal energy and photovoltaics systems on the roof, it would be advisable to have a suitable roof space. Ideally this would be pointing southwards and be free of shade from trees or neighbouring buildings.

Amortization periods for systems of this style are rather vague, but periods of 25 years or more are not unusual. In addition to running costs, there will be costs for maintenance, insurance, repairs and meter fees. (>) It is essential to consider that the installation of a small wind turbine is subject to building permits and might not be permitted everywhere.

A pellet heating system as a complete package will cost ca. 17,000 euros. Often there are additional costs for alterations to the storage or for more complex installation scenarios. That means realistically you would have to expect a pellet system to set you back 19,000 to 25,000 euros (pellet boiler, buffer storage, storage area as well as transport system and installation). Therefore, pellet heating systems pay off in the case of large single and multiple family homes with higher heating needs where the higher costs compared with heating systems using gas (8,000 euros) or oil (15,000 euros) can be amortized much quicker. The cost to generate one kWh with a pellet boiler are 0.0532 euros. Using natural gas, the costs are 0.0720 euros. Running costs for a pellet heating system are of course caused by the pellets themselves but also system cleaning and maintenance which run at ca. 350 euros a year. (>) Of course, with a pellet heating system one cannot ignore environmental concerns over the use of biomass.

A geothermal heat pump extracts heat from the earth either via ground heat collectors (installed under the earth's surface) or via a borehole heat exchanger. For the extraction of heat via ground heat collectors, plastic tubes are installed about 1.20 - 1.50 m underground in several loops. This makes especially good sense during new construction where the system can be installed while foundations are being laid.

Using one or more boreholes of 50-100 m can allow access to source temperatures of ca. 10 °C year-round. However, this requires a permit and the space for the borehole. Depending on geography, specific demands for the drilling need to be considered as well.

Electrically operated heat pumps as a complete system will cost 8,000 to 16,000 euros (plus installation), depending on system size. When using a brine-to-water heat pump (geothermal heat pump) additional costs have to be factored in for heat source exploitation. A decision has to be made whether a borehole - with a sufficiently large plot - or the installation of heat collectors is the way to go. Depending on borehole depth (between 50 and 100 m) and geographic consistency, drilling costs vary between 8,000 and 20,000 euros. The solution using heat collectors is significantly cheaper, running at about 3,000 to 8,000 euros. (>) In both cases it should be noted that a heat extractor pump needs electric energy to do its job - depending on the model ca. 10 kWh.

The decision for a geothermal heat pump makes sense when geographic conditions are very favourable or if ecological reasons prevail. The benefit of a geothermal heat pump in hot areas is that in summer it can also be used for cooling purposes.

Holistic solution instead of patchwork - the nanoFlowcell® house

There are many options for an alternative energy supply but an entirely independent solution using known technology seems to be only possible at a high cost. There is high demand for an alternative energy solution for private households to meet the demand for affordable and environmentally friendly energy - independent of any environmental rhetoric or international energy policy.

nanoFlowcell Holdings is currently developing an off-grid alternative-energy house that is in fact capable of meeting its energy needs exclusively through a nanoFlowcell®. What is most unique about the nanoFlowcell® house is that one single energy source is enough to meet a household's demands for hot water, heating and electricity. A nanoFlowcell® unit of the size used in QUANT 48VOLT is more than enough to supply an average household of four with energy.

Even in a peak test, simulating the theoretical case where all electric energy consumers are operated simultaneously, the nanoFlowcell® house does not require an energy backup.

The nanoFlowcell® house – full integration of car and house. The nanoFlowcell® power unit has a capacity sufficient to meet a house’s peak level electricity requirements without supply interruptions.

The theoretical energy consumption of all electric energy consumers run simultaneously is 22,576 Wh or roughly 23 kW. (>) As stated, this peak consumption is theoretical and is likely never to occur in reality. However, there will be occasions where photovoltaics and small wind turbine systems will reach their limits as individual and sole sources of electric energy. Using the table above, you can put together your own peak use scenario if you like.

Statistically, a private household of four consumes on average 5,000 kWh of electric energy per year and 12,000 kWh of thermal energy (120 kWh per m²). This equates to roughly 28,000 litres of bi-ION electrolyte liquid in its current concentration (600 wh per litre). The nanoFlowcell Holdings research department is currently experimenting with more highly concentrated electrolyte liquids for use in stationary applications like a domestic power unit.

Like in a nanoFlowcell® electric car, energy transformers (the actual nanoFlowcell®) and energy storage units (the bi-ION tanks) are separated from one another. The energy transformer is roughly the same size as that in the QUANT 48VOLT - smaller than a modern gas heating unit. However, the energy storage units, the bi-ION tanks, are much larger than in a car and can be adapted to the available space in the boiler room. They can also be located outside the house above or below ground in the same way as tanks for oil heating systems.

Like in an oil heating or a pellet heating system, the household would receive regular deliveries of bi-ION electrolyte liquid. The consumption principle it similar to that in a nanoFlowcell® electric car. After energy production, the consumed electrolyte liquid is filtered and the salts and electrolytes remaining in the filter subsequently disposed of together with the filter when the next batch of bi-ION is delivered. The clean and filtered water can be used for irrigation, to fill the swimming pool or be disposed of via the sewage system. Alternatively, the system can be devised so that the consumed electrolyte liquid is stored in a separate tank and pumped off at the next bi-ION delivery for further processing in a central location.

The benefit of a nanoFlowcell® energy supply is that it is comprehensive and seamless, even during peak energy consumption times and during adverse weather conditions. The nanoFlowcell® unit delivers electrical energy for electrical household consumers. Hot water is prepared in an electric hot water boiler which can also run a heating unit unless an electric heating unit has been selected.

The nanoFlowcell® energy generator works entirely silently as there are no moving parts inside the system apart from two electrolyte pumps. This makes the system extremely easy to maintain.

Domestic energy supply using a nanoFlowcell® unit is not only environmentally-friendly but also affordable. The investment costs for installation of a nanoFlowcell® are estimated to be comparable to those of an oil heating, depending on the performance of the energy transformer and the power distributor as well as size and position of the electrolyte tank. One particular bonus is the seamless integration of car and house: of course, a car driven by nanoFlowcell® can be filled up via the domestic bi-ION system. The plan is also to enable an electric car powered by nanoFlowcell® to be used as an additional energy source - a mobile power outlet so to speak.

Supply of an entire region with bi-ION electrolyte solution would be handled centrally. At the production site, bi-ION liquid is filled into tankers - similar to oil tankers - and delivered to local consumers such as off-grid households.

The benefits of a nanoFlowcell® unit in overview:

  • Reliability: seamless supply of electric energy - independent of weather conditions or peak consumption.

  • Efficiency: one single energy source for all domestic electric and heat consumption.

  • Environmental friendliness: the production of bi-ION electrolytes is sustainable and includes regenerative energies.

  • Safety: bi-ION and its contents are not hazardous to health and are neither flammable nor explosive.

  • Affordability: production of the nanoFlowcell® as well as the bi-ION electrolyte liquid can be managed extremely economically on an industrial scale.

  • Flexibility: integrated energy management of car and house.

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