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Distributed Generation (DG) is generation of electricity by small-scale power plants located near the electric loads they serve.
Distributed generation networks act like peer-to-peer file sharing systems like bit torrent on the internet, rather than the primitive internet and conventional grid with few centers of information and energy, respectively. DG is therefore much less susceptible to large-scale power outages caused by natural or the increasing number of man made disasters that threaten national security.
Distributed generation is also known as:
- Back-up generation,
- Stand-by generation,
- Cogeneration or Cogen,
- Combined Heat and Power (CHP),
- Renewable generation,
- Remote power
Types of Distributed Generation Technologies
Generators which require a fuel supply
- Microturbines -- Microturbines are small combustion turbines that produce between 25 kW and 500 kW of electric power and allow for the waste heat to be captured. These can run on flare gas.
- Combustion turbines - Gas turbines are generally used for loads from 500kW upwards.
- Reciprocating engines - Diesel or petrol engines use one or more pistons to convert pressure into a rotating motion they are the most common and most technically mature of all DG technologies.
- Stirling engines- Stirling engines are classed as external combustion engines - sealed systems with an inert working fluid, usually air, helium or hydrogen. Thes can work with any heat source if it is hot enough.
- Fuel cells - A fuel cell is an electrochemical device in which the energy of a chemical reaction is converted directly into electricity. By combining H2 fuel with O2 from air, electricity is formed, without combustion of any form. H2O and heat are the only by-products when H2 is used as the fuel source. These generally need a high quality fuel source as contaminants in the fuel can poison the catalysts and reduce the efficiency of the fuel cell.
Generators which use natural energy sources
Where it is expensive to deliver fuel to the generator then generators which can use local natural energy sources are more appropriate.
- Solar Photovoltaics - Photovoltaic (PV) systems convert light energy directly into electricity. Solar photovoltiacs are a technically feasible and sustainable solution to our future energy needs. Commonly known as “solar cells.” The more sunlight there is the more electricity generated for each square meter of solar cell so these are most effective where there is little cloud cover.
- Wind turbines - Wind turbines use the wind to produce electrical power
- Small scale Hydroelectricity use the flow of water downhill to generate electricity
Education on DG
- DG Education Modules sponsored by the NSF