The implementation of micro scale combined heat and power systems is one of the ways to improve the energy security of consumers. In fact, there are many available large and medium scale cogeneration units, which operate according to the Rankine Cycle. Due to European Union demands in the field of using renewable energy sources and increasing energy efficiency result in the importance of additionally developing systems dedicated for use in residential buildings, farms, schools and other facilities. This paper shows the concept of introducing thermoelectric generators into typical wood stoves: steel plate wood stoves and accumulative wood stoves. Electricity generated in thermoelectric generators (there were studies on both three market available units and a prototypical unit developed by the authors) may be firstly consumed by the system (to power controller, actuators, fans, pumps, etc.). Additional power (if available) may be stored in batteries and then used to power home appliances (light, small electronics and others). It should be noted that commercially available thermoelectric generators are not matched for domestic heating devices – the main problems are connected with an insufficient heat flux transmitted from the stove to the hot side of the generator (caused e.g. by the non -homogeneous temperature distribution of the surface and bad contact between the stove and the generator) and inefficient cooling. To ensure the high efficiency of micro cogeneration systems, developing a dedicated construction both of the generator and the heat source is necessary.
Straw-fired batch boilers, due to their relatively simple structure and low operating costs, are an excellent source of heat for a wide range of applications. A concept prototype of a cogeneration system with a straw-fired batch boiler was developed. The basic assumptions were based on the principles of the Rankine Cycle and the Organic Rankine Cycle systems with certain design modifications. Using the prototype design of a system that collects high-temperature heat from the boiler, studies were performed. The studies involved an analysis of the flue gas temperature distribution in the area of the oil exchanger, a comparison of the instantaneous power of the boiler’s water and oil circuits for different modes of operation, as well as an analysis of the flue gas. In the proposed system configuration where the electricity production supplements heat generation, the power in the oil circuit may be maintained at a constant level of approx. 20-30 kW. This is possible provided that an automatic fuel supply system is applied. Assuming that the efficiency of the electricity generation system is not less than 10%, it will be possible to generate 2-3 kW of electricity. This value will be sufficient, for an on-site operation of the boiler.
The changes in the domestic solid fuel market (including forecasted increases in the fuel prices) and the growing requirements related to actual environmental standards, result in increased interest in renewable energy sources, such as biomass, wind and solar energy. These sources will allow to achieve reduction in the CO2 emission, and consequently – avoid environmental costs after 2020. Therefore, the development of distributed energy systems, based on the use of biomass boilers, gas boilers and high efficiency combined heat and power units, will enable the fulfillment of current standards in the field of energy efficiency and emission of pollutants to the atmosphere. It should be emphasized that the actions taken to reduce emissions (e.g. anti-smog act) will contribute to reducing coal consumption in the municipal and housing sector (households, agriculture and other customers) in favor of biomass and other renewable energy sources. The article reviews selected biomass technologies: - fluidized, dust and grate boilers, - straw-fired boilers, - cogeneration systems powered by biomass, - torrefaction and biomass carbonisation. The mentioned technologies are characterized by a high potential of in the field of dynamic development and practical application in the coming years. Thus, they can improve difficult situation in the distributed energy sector with a capacity up to 50 MW.