Where can DE be used?
DE can be a practical solution anywhere thermal energy and power are needed. The suite of DE technologies is already being widely used all over the world in areas with and without a grid on a variety of scales. The figure below, taken from the WADE 2006 World Survey of Decentralized Energy, illustrates the extent to which DE is currently being employed in various countries.
Various different DE applicaitions are suited for both industrialized countries and emerging economies. Depending on the particular circumstances of the applications for which power and heating/cooling are required, particular DE technologies are better suited than others but often any range of options are possible.
In highly populated areas DE can complement existing central generation capacity and is useful in applications as diverse as:
- Individual homes
- Data Centres
- Community Heating and Cooling
- Heavy Industry
- Petrochemical plants
- Steel plants
In rural areas DE can also be very practical for a wide array of applications:
- Water pumping
- Rural electrification
- Cottage industry
- Textile mills
- Sugar mills
- Food products
DE can also be an attractive economic option in a wide range of communities: from multibillion dollar high tech factories to remote and impoverished villages with little financial wealth and no modern energy. For example in a modern data center an array of high tech fuel cells may be an attractive investment to supply reliable and clean power on-site. In such applications, an electrical grid and fuel supply infrastructure (such as pipes for natural gas) are prerequisite. On the other side of the spectrum, in a remote village with no exisiting power grid or source of modern energy villagers may also invest in DE, for example in the form of a small wind turbine or PV panel to provide basic illumination or help charge mobile phones.