Sunday, 15 March 2009

Micro CHP at ISH Frankfurt

The biannual ISH (Heating & Plumbing) exhibition in Frankfurt is the largest of its kind in Europe so boiler manufacturers and everyone else in the heating industry tend to use it as a platform to launch their new products for the next couple of years. It is also something of a barometer of the state both of individual companies and individual technologies. In which case, the sheer number of micro CHP products on show should mean that it is all about to happen. All the major boiler companies had micro CHP products on their stands, including EHE (with the WhisperGen unit) who were demonstrating their first units off the new production line in Spain, Baxi, Remeha, Vaillant and Viessmann (with units based on the MEC engine) planning to launch this year in UK, Netherlands and Germany, and Elco (formerly known as Merloni/Ariston) with another free piston Stirling engine, but this time from Infinia in the USA.

Then there were the internal combustion engine based products with Baxi (Senertec, Dachs) 5kWe unit, Vaillant (Ecopower) and Vaillant again with their recently announced product based on the 1kWe Honda engine. That product has sold more than 60,000 units in Japan under the Ecowill brand, as well as some units in USA through Climate Energy, so it is encouraging to see the technology finally make it to Europe, although it will be interesting to see whether Vaillant will try and package the unit to perform more efficiently than the overseas units.

And then there were the fuel cells! Probably not available commercially for a few years yet, but again, major players like Baxi with their PEM fuel cell now in partnership with Ballard who have been so successful in Japan in partnership with Ebara; so, once more, very encouraging to see the technology coming over here, although again with some reservations about how applicable it is to European market requirements.

So, all in all, it seems that micro CHP might just be about to make its debut on a mass scale all across Europe; some might say "not before time", but the sheer number and calibre of manufacturers in the market now gives credibility to a technology which has seen a number of false dawns.