In the UK, an innovative ‘trigeneration’ system fuelled entirely by raw plant oils could have great potential for isolated homes and businesses operating outside grid systems both in the UK and abroad. Developed by a consortium led by Newcastle University and funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) through the RCUK Energy Programme, the small-scale combined cooling, heat and power system has been designed to provide dependable electricity without the need for a mains connection.
Ideally suited for small-holdings and businesses, and particularly applications in the developing world, the waste heat that is produced by the system is used for cooling and heating in order to recover the maximum amount of energy. At the same time, the team have incorporated advanced electrical storage into the system to make it even more efficient and more able to cope with the daily fluctuating demand for electricity.
To make the system even greener, and more appropriate for the developing world, the team has also shown the system can be powered by biofuels. “We wanted to avoid running the trigeneration system using biodiesel or other highly-processed fuels from raw materials,” says Professor Roskilly. “So instead, we developed a system for using the oils obtained from pressing crop seeds, like those from jatropha and croton.