Smart Meter and Stirling Engine
- Smart Meter
Power companies have embraced the advanced metering concept where they have installed the state-of-the-art ‘smart’ meters to enhance energy use and save on energy cost. A smart meter utilizes digital technology to collect the energy-usage information, and convey such information to the central system. The device allows for two-way communication between the central grid and the meter, and can accumulate data to be utilized in remote reporting. The purpose of a smart meter is to assist in eliminating the issue of estimating bills. A smart meter enables power consumers to monitor the rate of energy use so that they can save on monthly electric bills, and access their usage through Internet.
The installation of smart meters would eliminate the need to visit every house or business to read meter. Example of a state that has implemented smart metering is Illinois, where it has received an alarming reception. According to Britt (2011), 82% of customers checked their devices daily after installation while 87% made adjustments in their energy utilization after reading the results.
In most American states, the Public Utility Commission (PUC) is responsible for regulating electric power without interfering with sales. A number of states have embraced decoupling or breaking the connection between distribution revenue and the spinning meters (Makholm, 2008). California State was the first to adopt the Electric Rate Adjustment Mechanism (ERAM), which gave a new direction from the traditional ratemaking. Other states that approved ERAM include Idaho and Maryland. Such states chose to adopt ERAM because it has the capacity to minimize company risk, in addition to keeping profits intact and encouraging consumers to cut costs, thus, improving productivity.
- Stirling Engine
This is a type of heat engine that functions through cyclic contraction and expansion of air at various levels of temperatures to change heat energy to mechanical power. According to Gupta (2012), some advantages of a Stirling engine include:
- It can use different fuel types since fuel burns outside the combustion chamber in the engine
- The engine has low exhaust emissions, as HC and CO undergo complete combustion resulting from high temperatures in the preheated air.
- The rhombic drive enables even a single-cylinder engines have a perfect balance due to its weight. This enables the vibration of the engine to be free.
- No side thrusts are encountered on the bearings because the rhombic drive is symmetrical.
- Stirling engines provide higher maximum thermal efficiency than what SI or CI engines could provide.
- Stirling engines are noise-free and smooth in their operations.
- Starting a Stirling engine is quite easy, as all that is required is to ignite the burner.
- Stirling engines have numerous applications due to their constant torque characteristics throughout their entire range of speed.
However, Stirling engines have numerous disadvantages, which include:
- They are relatively complex due to the utilization of rhombic drive, heaters, and coolers.
- Stirling engines demand a large quantity of cooling water due to their radiator size.
- Stirling engines require blowers to force the air enter in the pre-heaters and combustion chambers.
- Stirling engines are quite expensive compared to other similar engines.
- Many people are not aware of Stirling engines, as it is not popular.
- The engine lacks flexibility, as it can only run with constant nominal output.
- Stirling engines require bulky apparatus for heat transfer.
- It is difficult to standardize the engine due to numerous models, thus, their prices remain high.
Some components that utilize the Stirling engine to converting solar energy to electricity include the combined heat and power system, nuclear power system, and solar power system. Another component that works using Stirling engine technology is the dishwasher-size WhisperGen 1.2 kW micro-CHP unit (Randolph & Masters, 2008).This unit uses the CHP system, where electrical power is produced normally, but the wasted heat is utilized in a secondary heating application.
Britt, P (May 2011). Smart Metering of Utilities on Rise in U.S. The Heartland Institute, Policy Document. Retrieved on 5 May 2015 from https://www.heartland.org/policy-documents/smart-metering-utilities-rise-us
Gupta, H. N. (2013). Fundamentals of internal combustion engines. Delhi: PHI Learning.
Makholm, J. D. (2008). “Decoupling” For Energy Distributors: Changing 19th Century Tariff Structures to Address 21st Century Energy Markets. Energy Law Journal, 29(1), 157-172.
Randolph, J., & Masters, G. M. (2008). Energy for sustainability: Technology, planning, policy. Washington, D.C: Island Press.