Micro-CHP: A low-cost unit of combined heat and power ideal for small homes

Last Updated on Thursday, 4 November, 2021 at 1:17 pm by Andre Camilleri

Micro-CHP which incorporates several important innovations, enabling the development of a compact, efficient, and low-cost unit of combined heat and power system ideal for small homes, not currently found on the market, within the budget of an average income household, was launched on the 3rd of November during a Public Engagement event held at the EsploraPlanetarium at Esplora Interactive Science Centre in Kalkara.

The €199,956.88 funded project under the MCST FUSION R&I Programme is a collaboration between the University of Malta and Abertax Kemtronics Ltd.

Through this micro-CHP unit, one can benefit from generating electricity from fuel (typically gas or biofuel) and is efficient because most of the heat energy will be recovered using advanced techniques. Heating up homes, providing hot water and generating electricity at the same time are its main benefits. Micro-CHP will recover most of the heat and the efficiency will increase from around 40% to over 90% when compared with a standard off the shelf generator.

The event was attended by the Hon. Owen Bonnici, Minister for Equality, Research, and Innovation and the Centre’s Executive Chairman Dr Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando.

During his closing speech the Hon. Owen Bonnici said: “Besides the commercial value of such a venture, the knowledge transfer that goes on when public and private entities work together, as in such consortia is actually priceless, and will keep on giving in the future.

Without such collaborations, these R&I projects would be impossible, and I cannot stress enough the importance for our country to keep investing in the strengthening of the research and innovation pillar which is the key for our economic growth and competitive impact.”.

Addressing the Micro-CHP Public Engagement event, the Executive Chairman of the Malta Council for Science and Technology, Dr Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando said that: “MCST has been given a mandate to offer support to academic institutions, private and public entities as part of our country’s ongoing efforts to promote research and innovation and to drive international competitiveness. MCST provides support on two levels through FUSION – the first being the guidance and mentoring of the technological feasibility of related projects when it comes to market-readiness and economic impact. The second is considerable financial support to enable collaborative and translational research activities.  To date we have granted 12 million Euro in funding to enable researchers to tackle ambitious challenges.” He added that “We are very optimistic that our investment in the rising stars of research and innovation will not only enhance the research talent pipeline in the Maltese islands but will also continue to support those who are determined to solve the most difficult questions we are faced with – whether these are in frontier science, our changing economy or our evolving society.”

The collaborators, explained that although PV panels have brought several changes in the way electricity is used in a household, renewable energy also has its drawbacks, particularly due to the unpredictability of available energy. Countries like Malta can successfully benefit from solar power alone, however, to achieve this, excess energy needs to be stored in order to be utilized during the winter months. Such method would not be practical within a residential system for its excessive cost in batteries.  The design has already received international recognition for the Best Poster Award at the 15th IRES International Renewable Energy Storage Conference in March 2021.

Eryl Vella, research engineer at the University Of Malta, said:”This novel micro-CHP with integrated storage will become a critical part of the electrical system of any home, being able to balance both instantaneous as well as seasonal fluctuations in renewable energy generation. This will allow a home to manage its energy sources and loads to achieve the full potential of their investment in renewables.”

Technical Presentations were delivered by the project team and a panel discussion led by an Esplora Science Communicator, took place around the field. 

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