Power generation markets
Fossil Fuel Power Plants
There are over 10,000 power generating plants in the US alone that consume coal, oil and gas, and an estimated 95,000 worldwide. In most power stations, mechanical power is produced by a heat engine which converts thermal energy into rotational energy but the second law of thermodynamics states that not all thermal energy can be transformed into mechanical power.
Consequently, virtually every power plant generates substantial amounts of waste heat, a certain amount of which is not recoverable using current technology. As with other waste heat recovery applications, using a MicroPower device to access and convert this heat would allow energy producers to significantly boost their output, with little effect on overall operating costs.
Concentrated Solar Power Plants
Using mirrors and lenses, solar thermal systems can focus sunlight from a large area onto a very small point, producing very high temperatures that are then converted into electricity. For us, the Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) opportunity is to expose a simple black absorber to sunlight to collect thermal energy from a mirror concentrator and deliver it to the hot side of a MicroPower device.
Global CSP capacity was estimated to hit 5 GW by the end of 2015, growing to 15 GW by 2025. Though MicroPower’s devices will not necessarily deliver greater efficiency than existing energy conversion options (for example Stirling engines), there are a number of other benefits, such as significantly reduced acquisition and maintenance costs, which make our solution a viable option.
There are a number of emerging technologies that can produce electricity from waste products without using direct combustion. The advantage of these systems is that they are often modular and so can be implemented on a local basis, and they reduce the need to dispose of the waste by other means. In addition, they can create energy with a low (or no) cost fuel and minimal emissions.
These processes generally require extremely high temperatures and some of the waste heat isn’t physically accessible for reuse. MicroPower has been working with developers in this field for several years to integrate our technology into the system design so that when modular plants are rolled out, our heat recovery devices will a provide significant performance boost.