Dean Kamen's small-scale power system (Stirling engine alert!) enters the real world
Posted by David Brooks | Wednesday, November 13, 2013
A "distributed power" system for homes and business that includes a Stirling engine, being developed by DEKA Research, Dean Kamen's firm in Manchester, is being touted by NRG Energy, a big New Jersey-based utility.
NRG Energy says deployment of Beacon 10, an "energy applicance" or smart generator, is part of the transition away from the traditional utility model - a few big power plants sending one-way power to users over dumb power lines - to a more mixed model in which some small, some medium and some large power production sites send electricity every which way.
Beacon 10 allegedly includes a Stirling engine that can produced 10 kilowatts of electricity, and can use natural gas and solar panels for a maximum output of 15 KW, which is way more than a house needs.
Kamen has long been a fan of the Stirling engine, which draws power from the compression and expansion of fluids at different temperatures. During the speculation frenzy before the Segway came out, some thought it might be powered by a Stirling engine, and his Slingshot water purification system uses a Stirling engine.
Stirling engines are extremely efficient but various technical issues* have kept them from widespread use. If DEKA has found a way to incorporate one into a portable power system at reasonable cost and size, it would be a big deal.
* i.e., "I'm glossing over this because I don't understand the details"