Scientists are scrambling to develop efficient, reliable batteries that can make solar and wind power less dependent on fossil-fuel back up, but an efficient miniature power plant may beat batteries to the punch, panelists at a smart-grid symposium said in Chicago Tuesday.
Miniature combined heat and power plants (Micro-CHPs) are in development that could provide backup electricity for rooftop solar, using natural gas already piped to most homes, the panelists said. Instead of waste heat vanishing up a smokestack at a power plant miles away, they would employ waste heat the way gas is used in homes now: to heat water and heat rooms. They might even store heat for later use.
“There’s a lot of focus on electrical storage, but I think thermal storage holds tremendous promise in innovation in terms of resiliency and distributed generation systems,” Steve Johanns, the CEO of Veriown Energy, a distributed-generation energy company, told about 100 people Tuesday at the Illinois Institute of Technology.