A brief introduction to microgeneration, what it is and what it can do for you and the planet


An overview of different electricity and heat producing microgeneration technologies with links to further details on each


Before you look for ways to produce your own energy, it makes sense to minimise your energy needs.  An outline of some energy efficiency measures you can take.

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Mini CHP delivers the benefits of large scale CHP, but within smaller developments.  This can also minimise distribution losses, resulting in a very high overall utilisation of fuel, saving money and carbon.
Can make use of biofuels to provide even better carbon savings.
Highly efficient heat & power production
Cost effective investment
Lower electrical efficiency than larger CHP
Higher specific cost than larger CHP
Cost effective energy and carbon savings for extremely large homes, farms, schools and small hotels.
Micro CHP is defined by the UK Government as being CHP with an electrical output less than 50kWe; this clearly includes units far too big for individual homes for which products up to 3kWe and normally around the 1kWe level are most common.  The micro CHP section deals with the very smallest products (<5kWe) suitable for individual family homes; this section deals only with products from 5-50kWe (also known as "mini CHP") more suitable for small hotels, sheltered housing, schools and small commercial premises. 

Although there are developments in a number of mini CHP technologies, the most commonly encountered are based on ICE (Internal Combustion Engines); early products simply took automotive engines and adapted them for stationary use, with consequent very poor performance.  Modern mini CHP products, however, use engines specifically designed for long life and extended service intervals; although regular service is required, this is less of an issue with units installed in plant rooms and where professional maintenance contracts, including remote monitoring are in place.

As with micro CHP, the economics of mini CHP depend primarily on the generation of electricity; electricity is significantly more valuable than heat both in economic and carbon terms.  Thus, in order to maximise the value of this generation, it is desirable to run the system for as many hours per year as possible, so that products with high electrical efficiency (and relatively low heat output) are desirable.  However, it is also important that the cost of the product does not result in extended payback periods; typically up to 10 years is considered viable for public sector applications, although well designed systems can achieve much quicker paybacks.


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Jeremy Harrison 2008  Last update 20th November 2008