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UTILITY Week 19th June USE

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22 | 19TH - 25TH JUNE 2015 | UTILITY WEEK Game changer /Technology/Innovation Generating some heat After ten years in development, Flow Energy is ready to take on the market with a micro-CHP unit it claims will revolution- ise energy in the home. Lois Vallely reports. B oilers are invaluable. They keep us warm in the winter, heat our water and dry our clothes. However, as much as 20 per cent of heat from a conventional boiler is lost through the flue. This not only loses customers' money, it also seems detrimen- tal to the UK's ambitious decarbonisation targets. The energy industry needs a solution. Start-up company Flow Group has stepped up to the plate, coming up with an innovative micro-combined heat and power (micro-CHP) boiler. It is designed to convert heat from combustion into electricity, which Operations & Assets How it works 1. Gas burns in the combustion chamber 2. This heats up a pressurised, liquid refrigerant within the boiler's micro-CHP power module, which evaporates 3. The vapour moves through a dynamo called a 'scroll expander' which causes it to spin 4. The scroll acts like the turbines that produce electricity in power stations 5. The spinning creates an electrical current which is either used in the home or fed into the grid 6. The vapour then condenses in a heat exchanger and heats water for the heating system 7. The liquid refrigerant is then pressurised and evaporated again, continuing the cycle Natural gas or LPG goes in Flue out Electricity out Hot water out Heating system return can then be used in the home or fed into the grid. By gen- erating power at the point-of-use while using the heat, the Flow boiler significantly reduces the carbon intensity of that power and contributes to the decarbonisation of the UK's electricity supply. The Flow boiler is a condensing boiler which uses a single gas-fired burner to provide heat, drive the organic Rankine cycle circuit which converts heat from burning gas into electricity. Energy consultancy EA Technology describes micro- CHP as "representing a potentially disruptive force in the evolving European power markets". The advantages of the technology are abundant, with higher efficiency resulting in cost savings and major energy savings, and giving rise to a considerably lower carbon footprint. Flow's research and development centre, located in Capenhurst near Chester, is where the company spent ten years and £60 million developing its unique, pat- ented, Flow boiler. The British market for boilers is strong and, over the past 12 months, the number of boilers being replaced has risen by 15 per cent, to more than 1.7 million every year. Flow says its micro-CHP boiler could reduce the annual carbon emissions from a typical home by 20 per cent (1,000kg of CO2) – "the equivalent of driving 4,000 miles less in your car". On top of that, it could save the average household £80 a month on its energy bill. Furthermore, the boiler has been installed under the Flow Finance package, it can deliver a fixed reduction in energy bills of £4,800 over five years, meaning, accord- ing to the company's sales pitch, that it "practically pays for itself ". With initial units due to be installed in custom- ers' homes this month, Flow may be about to trigger a micro-CHP revolution in boiler efficiency, going some way towards helping the energy sector reach its carbon reduction goals. Utility Week's Game Changers series seeks to champion disruptive innovation in the utilities sector. To put forward a technology for coverage contact assistant editor (insights) Jane Gray, email: janegray@fav-house.com

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