The E-Cat and the Grid

One of the big attractions of the E-Cat for many people is that it’s power density offers the potential for home based-electrical generation. There are many attractions to off-grid living. Anyone who has had to deal with an extended power outage in the wake of severe weather or other disruption can appreciate how convenient it would be not to have to depend on the power company for electricity.

There’s also the case that in many parts of the world that the grid does not even exist. The benefits of abundant, reliable electricity are simply not available to millions of people. Individual E-Cat generators would be hugely attractive in these areas.

We don’t know how long it will take for Rossi and his associates to be able to create reliable home-based generators, but it does appear that they are working hard to make this possible. Assuming they achieve this goal, an interesting question arises. Should consumers who own an E-Cat generators have the ability to hook them into the grid and sell the electricity back to the utility? In many countries consumers have the legal right to do this, and receive a feed-in tariff as payment. If this was allowed for E-Cat technology, owners of home-based E-Cat generators could not only save electricity, but make money from the surplus power they feed into the grid.

At the moment the amount of electricity fed into the grid by consumers is small, and feed-in tariffs are really government policy mechanisms designed as incentives for alternative energy deployment. The whole tariff system could change dramatically if there was truly a competitive alternative to fossil and nuclear fueled power plants. So initially, E-Cat generators might qualify for feed-in tariffs, but if they became very popular the tariff system would need to be reevaluated or the E-Cat could bankrupt the utilities if most consumers were selling, not buying their electricity!

When Andrea Rossi was asked recently about connecting the E-Cat to the grid, he responded, “When we will have production of electric power we will see. I suppose that we will either go directly to the loads of the Customers, or to the grid. To go to the grid takes substantial work for the interconnections and the authorizations. We know very well the issue, because we used to manufacture bio-masses fueled power plants, many of which have been connected with the grid.”

Just as there are many places in the world where land-line based telephony does not exist because cellular phone systems are used exclusively, we could eventually come to a point where the grid may be unnecessary if power generation is done on a micro-scale.

  • Rick Gresham

    I can only base comments on what I’ve read. I’ve read that the basic e-cat will cost around $5K, power will add around $2K if memory serves. If so, that leaves $3K for installation. I believe I also read inspections are required for now, but may not all ways be required and that the e-cat can run for a year or more on a single refueling. I think I read that refueling will cost less than $100. Anyone with more perfect knowledge is invited to correct my feeble memory.

    Searching the web for organic rankine cycle will yield many hits on power systems that run just fine, albeit at lower efficiencies, at substantially less than the 500C the e-cat is capable of producing. Even at 25% efficiency, a 15KWth e-cat could produce 3.5 KWe, more than twice the typical residential baseload, plus heat your house and give you plenty of hot showers.

    I believe it was A.R. that said what we will see soon is the “Model-T” e-cat. The Porsche is coming. I can well imagine that evolution of LENR/LANR or whatever you care to call it will occur at a speed closer to that the microprocessor than the automobile. My first PC had an 8 bit, 4.77 MHz CPU that averaged a couple of dozen clock cycles per instruction and had 64K of memory. Now, a mere 30 years later, I can get a four core 3 GHz 64bit multithreaded CPU that averages 3 or 4 clock cycles per instruction and has 8 GB of memory. If the e-cat evolved along similar lines, in 30 years it could be producing something like 300 MWth. I suspect the technology or a variant will exceed that level much sooner than 30 years.

    • timycelyn

      Rick – I’m very much on the same page as you regarding rate of development in this area, both in functionality and cost reduction. With the focus it will have once fully accepted and on the market – albeit in ‘Model T’ form, developments, both from Rossi et al, and competitors who are now just starting to emerge, will be fast and furious.

      TWMemphis: Yes, early numbers will be small, and it may well take special circumstances/interests to drive those purchases. But remember, as with so many things in life, product development/adoption tends to behave as a bell curve, with a leading edge of ‘Innovators’ (almost enthusiasts) who will purchase according to their own criteria.

      Then (IIRC) the next segment under the curve are the Ealy Adopters – more normal prchasing criteria, but very forward looking. The next two segments are either side of the main peak of the curve – I forget their marketing terms but they are basically those running slightly ahead of the current fasion, and those running slightly behind. Then, finally, we get the laggards, another small grouping of resistant/conservatives who tend to fight against the new technology.

      A good example over the last 20 years or so of this behaviour would be the adoption of the internet. That has progressed to the steady erosion of of the laggards…

  • twmemphis

    Georgehants:
    Yes, no pollution is great.
    But the E-Cat requires electrical energy to work and this is mostly also not generated pollution-free.
    But anyway, the E-Cat takes electricity as input and generates heat as output with a COP of 6 (6 times more than electricity input).
    Heatpumps do exactly the same. The COP varies between 4.5 and 6 for current models. The heatpump technology is continuously being improved, is already on the market since some years and inexpensive. There are air-heatpumps and water-heatpumps. My heatpump at home works by using the heat of the earth through a 100m deep drilling into the ground which is used to heat water (mixed with glycole) and then compress to scale up the heat up to 60°C to heat my house and to generate hot water. It is working fine!
    The heatpump als can switch on and off very quickly, it does not require any ignition-phase. A service every 2 years is being done which costs me around $250.

    As you can see: There already is a pollution-free heating-product on the market which is much less expensive and requires less service than the E-Cat.
    The price for the E-Cat must come down and inspection-frequency must be increased.

    • Frank (admin)

      According to Rossi, the E-Cats he is operating these days don’t require electrical input most of the time.

      • twmemphis

        Frank: Yes, I have read this, but this is not the case for the product he is releasing. It is only in internal testing. According to Rossi it is not safe enough to run the E-Cat with higher COP (or completely without electricity input) at this time.

        As I already said: Improve efficiency, reduce costs, try to bringe the service interval to only once per year or every two years, and MOST IMPORTANT: Show a proof that it really does work, build trust, do not avoid questions and scepticism, but just prove it! If people do not trust the steam quality, the invite Krivit again to bring any instrument to measure the steam. It takes less than a half hour to do so, which is less time than the time needed to write those angry letters about the “snakes”

        • Frank (admin)

          Rossi did say this: “”The 1 MW plant, probably will work mostly without energy input, I suppose, because we are resolving the safety issues connected.” I’m interpreting that to mean the prototype he is going to install in Greece will likely run without energy input most of the time. Of course, we’ll have to wait to find out for sure.

    • TH-minneapolis

      twmemphis says: “My heatpump at home works by using the heat of the earth through a 100m deep drilling into the ground which is used to heat water (mixed with glycole) and then compress to scale up the heat up to 60°C to heat my house and to generate hot water.”

      Can you tell us how much you paid for your geothermal system?
      I’m betting it was more than $10K. I bought an elect heat pumps (about $10K installed) and find out that it only work best above 40F in the winter so here up north it’s not as efficient as I think a future e-cat will be and payback will likely be much quicker than your geothermal system. Using one e-Cat that generates 4kWh of steam heat combine it with a future micro CHP (combined heat and power) furnace that puts out a minimum of 1.5kW of electricity store the excess power you don’t consume with high end solar batteries (both w/ life of 20 yrs) and sell any excess power buy back to the local electric grid via net metering my calculations where I live it will be paid off in less than 2 years and be able to pocket around $90K if the life is 20 yrs (if today’s prices stay the same). Plus no more electric or gas bills needed to heat my home or water so I look at as a good/safe investment which BTW looks much better than today’s stock market. Just give it some time to mature as other new technologies have in the past and I’m hoping that someday everyone will be able to afford to have one in their home.

  • georgehants

    One must take into account carbon tariffs that are zero.
    In fact if true no pollution of any kind, except in manufacturing.
    How much is that worth.

  • Rick Gresham

    I live in the US Pacific Northwest. I spend on average, $2700 a year on energy (electricity and gas) and electricity here is relatively cheap, weather fairly mild. A “typical” US home peak consumption is 5KWe, 1.5KWe baseline. I’m pretty close to typical.

    Earlier posts seem likely correct, feed in tarriffs will likely go away if substantial residential CHP deployments occur. Still, power companies are obliged to purchase power at “avoided costs” which, while less than feed in tarriffs, still generate revenue for net sales to the grid. Manufacturing costs will go down, e-cat output will increase (I read yesterday output is up to 30KWth at 414C for a single unit).

    If I can spend $10K on a unit financed at zero or near zero interest (gov’t backed financing), turn my $2,700/year expense into even a modest income, payback seems plausible in an acceptably short timeframe.

    • twmemphis

      Rick Gresham: You compare to “electricity and gas”, but the E-Cat just produces heat. So the $10k will give you 5kW of heat, but only very little amount of electricity.

      Also you forgot that the E-Cat must be “reloaded” every 6 months. What the cost for this will be is unknown, but it is a re-occurring cost that might be quote high. This cost will lengthen the time to pay back.

      Gas-heating systems also require inspection, but just every 2-3 years and at fairly low cost. Electricity does not require inspecion/service at all.

      Gas-heating is “on demand”, you can switch the heater on and off within a second and gives full energy immediately. The E-Cat needs an hour to ignite. During ignition it produces not much more heat-energy than what you put it as electrical energy, which is totally non-efficient. Within this one hour, your gas-heater has already warmed up your rooms and is switching off, while the E-Cat then just begins to perform.

      timycelyn: Yes, I also hope the price will come down rapidly. I just wonder who in the world would be buying the first E-Cats at such high price level? Who was crazy enough to spend so much money on that suspicious 1MW plant and why?
      If I was Rossi and I know that my production costs are quite low, I would not try and maximize the profit, but I would try to sell it at a price that is “waking up the world”!

      • Frank (admin)

        The customer who is buying the 1MW plant is Defkalion Green Technologies. The way I understand it is that it will be used to partially power their factory, and will serve as a showcase/demonstration unit that can be shown to visitors who are interested in the technology. I would say its a prototype unit to provide proof of concept.

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  • Thon Brocket

    Lotsa new press reports at :http://www.defkalion-energy.com/news

    Unfortunately all in Greek, as PDF, but you like a challenge, right?.

  • twmemphis

    And please don’t forget: For normal heat-generation it is not required to run 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. Even in winter it will not run full power every hour.

    This means that even for heat generation it will take a very long time until the high price of an E-Cat gets paid off. When comparing to heat-pump-systems we are back to the point that the E-Cat is a lot too expensive and requires a too high frequency of (expensive) service.

    The price per kWh for the E-Cat is out of this world. I do not understand how anybody could afford it, I even wonder why somebody ordered that suspicious 1MW plant. Asking Rossi for the reasons or for the customer makes no sense…he would immediately say that we just want to spy him out.
    Still, the technology of the E-Cat – if it works – is a great invention and can hopefully be improved as well as reduced in cost over the time.

    • timycelyn

      Yes, perhaps. But please remember this is the estimated cost per installed Kwh for the first machines of the first generation. There is a whole science about the rate the cost of manufactured goods declines with the total manufactured, and the reductions are very large indeed over time.

      Remember ther cost and complexity of the very first mobile phones? Or (as I do) Commodore PET computers? (~1500$ in 1976 for less power than you now get in a bottom of the range calculator).

      Providing the demand is there to keep the product being made, the cost will inevitably slide – scale/learing/competiton – to perhaps 10% of those iniitial figures as maturity is approached. Let’s face it, (if it works) at its most basic this is a pretty simple piece of kit!

      Also, remember an extra price discontinuity will also occur when the patents lapse around 18 yrs from now. Not only from increased competiton, but from the dropping of all the anti-piracy technology (which will cost money) as it will become prgressively redundant and melt away under the blowlamp of competition.

      At this before birth stage, the longer term looks pretty good to me as far as this particular aspect is concerned…

  • Thon Brocket

    $1000 / kW (heat) = $3000 / kW (elec) capital cost. Very roughly, for full utilisation, 24/7, pay-back in three years, that’s 11 cents a kW-hr before you even consider the turbine / Stirling engine and generator. Rossi’s going to have to do about ten times better than that, if he’s talking about a cent a unit.

    • Frank (admin)

      Rossi was recently asked about cost of electricity — he said it would be “about 2000 Euros per kW”

      • Thon Brocket

        Which at $1.45 to a euro (today’s rate) is $2900; close to my guess of $3000 / kW installed. Revise it for payback in five years, but only 50% utilisation in a domestic setting – more realistic – gives 14 cents / kW-hr in financing costs alone. Coal / nuclear is about 5-6 cents.

        That’s a big hole blown in the economics, below the waterline, right there. It’s not free energy. It’s very pricy energy indeed, up there with the mega-dumb wind-turbines. It’s green-ish, so maybe Gubmint can pour tax-payer money into it, a la wind-turbines; but that’s the only business model I can see.

        Better yet, I posted these figures on Rossi’s JoNPh comment thread, pointing out that he didn’t have a business if they were correct. ZAP! – comment gone in sixty seconds. Veeeery touchy, even for Rossi.

        I reckon we need to hold his (and Defkalion’s) feet to the fire on this.

        • Thon Brocket

          Update: I reposted, and this time they published it, and Rossi came right back with this:

          “The life expectance of the E-Cat is 20 years.
          In any case, surely the economy scale will lower the price also of an order of magnitude.”

          Good for Rossi. “An order of magnitude” means a financing cost of a cent a kW-hr or thereabouts, and we’re back on track. Nevertheless, I don’t think he’ll sell very many at $2000/ kW.

  • atomsk

    In the post from July 18th it was said that it’s possible (and was already tested) that the energy input is only needed to start the process and can then sustain itself without additional energy input.

  • twmemphis

    Well, what shall I think of this whole discussion?
    Input of 700 Watt electrical energy results in eventually 5kW of heat in the form of steam. Transforming the steam into electricity results in maybe 1 to 1.5kW of electrical energy.
    Ok, if the product is for real (which still has not been proven), this sounds interesting at the first look.

    Rossi says the E-Cat will cost between $1000 and $2000 per kW of produced energy (he is talking about heat-energy). So the 5kW E-Cat will cost $5000 to $10000 plus the hardware (turbines?) to transform the steam into electrical energy.
    Let’s say total $10000
    It then produces 1 to 1.5kW of electrical energy, while it consumes 700W.
    Let’s make it easy and say it results in a result of 750W after the input-electricity is subtracted.
    We need to add that every 6 months the E-Cat needs a new “replacement reactor”. Nobody knows the cost, but let’s say it is $500
    How long will it take until the whole thing it has paid off when selling its electrical energy to the grid?

    750W x 24 hours = 18kWh per day
    in 6 months (180 days) it has produced 3240 kWh.
    Depending on the credited price per kWh for inputting this energy into the grid, it might just result in the cost for the service (replacement reactor) required every 6 months. But it is not sufficient to pay for the E-Cat.

    Maybe in the long-term future, when the effectivity of the E-Cat increases (if the E-Cat is able to produce a noticable multiple of the input energy at all, which has not been proven) and when heat-to-electricity-transformation becomes more effective, then we can discuss this issue. But not now.

    For the moment the E-Cat is nothing but a speculative product, which might work or not, we are forced to sit and wait for the release of a 1MW plant in October.
    But eventually the 1MW plant will go to an “unknown customer” who – just like Rossi – does not want the public nor any scientists perform independent tests. Who knows? Then we will have to wait again until Rossi decides to let somebody really test the product without him showing it with his own measurement methods.

    For the moment it still looks as if we will not even see results from independent scientists in October. But only when these tests are done, the big science magazines will report about it (which no famous magazine has done until today) and even more tests will be done. The product then can see further improvements and will “fly”.

    In my opinion it is too early to talk about electricity generation, as the extremely high cost of the E-Cat and the low effectivity of turbines (plus their cost) make the E-Cat completely unattractive for this use. If a 5kW E-Cat was a $500 product instead of $5000 and a super-effective turbine would cost another $500, we can re-discuss this.

    For the moment I would be happy to see a proof that the E-Cat can produce more heat-energy than the amount of electrical energy that is input. Although the targeted “6 times more energy” are in no way competeitve with todays heating systems cost-wise (I refer again to cheap heat-pumps), it would be an impressive result.