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LichtBlick begins installing home combined heat and power plants powered by VW 2.0L EcoBlue gas engine

Energy supplier LichtBlick has installed its first home power plants for residential and commercial customers in Hamburg, Germany. These plants are EcoBlue natural-gas-powered compact combined heat and power (CHP) plants produced by Volkswagen exclusively for LichtBlick. (Earlier post.) With EcoBlue technology from Volkswagen, energy consumption is reduced by up to 40% compared with conventional heat and power supply, according to VW.

Over the next few years, production and sales of the units are to be stepped up in accordance with the companies’ plan. In the long-term LichtBlick plans to network 100,000 of these home power plants, like a shoal of fish, to form Germany’s largest virtual gas-fired power plant.

This decentralized power plant will have the same capacity as two atomic power plants. The electric power generated will supplement fluctuating power from wind farms and solar facilities. The heat which is generated will be stored and will be available for local space heating and hot water supplies.

We intend to change the German energy landscape fundamentally. The successful launch in Hamburg is a major milestone. Our efforts are now gathering pace and we are developing the German market.

—Dr. Christian Friege, CEO of LichtBlick AG

Volkswagen and LichtBlick agreed on an energy partnership in September 2009. Volkswagen produces the EcoBlue CHP plant at its Salzgitter engine plant.

The 2.0 l gas engines used have proved themselves in millions of our Touran and Caddy models. Partnership with LichtBlick is in line with our component strategy, which is to develop future-oriented business areas closely related to the automobile industry. Every unit we supply to LichtBlick also helps in securing future employment at Salzgitter and our other plants.

—Prof. Dr. Werner Neubauer, Member of the Board of Management of the Volkswagen brand with responsibility for Components

In addition to private building-owners, the first customers of LichtBlick include the city cleaning department in Hamburg. By the end of the year, LichtBlick plans to install a total of 30 plants in the region. Agreement has already been reached with SAGA GWG, a Hamburg housing association, and Vereinigung Hamburger Kindertagesstätten GmbH, the association of Hamburg child care facilities. Installation is due to start in early 2011.

Being located close to customers in Hamburg will enable LichtBlick to collect data useful in the next stage of national expansion of the decentralized power generation project, Friege said. A test set-up with 25 decentralized plants has already been in operation at Volkswagen's Salzgitter plant since the beginning of the year.

In addition to Hamburg, LichtBlick has already started sales efforts in Berlin, Bremen, Essen, Leipzig, and Stuttgart as well as in the region of Braunschweig, Wolfsburg and Salzgitter. Other regions are due to follow from 2011. A home power plant needs a heat demand of at least 40,000 kWh, which means that these plants are suitable for very large single-family homes, buildings with two or three flats, small businesses and public and social facilities such as schools and churches.

The plant remains the property of LichtBlick, which rents the customer’s “boiler-room”. The customer only pays a contribution starting at €5,000 for installation. With the support of regional installation partners, LichtBlick assumes responsibility for the dismantling of the old gas heating system and the installation of the home power plant as well as servicing, maintenance and repairs.



A lot of waste heat in the summer!


The push for efficiency has just picked up a new and powerful advocate--and supplier.


All they need to add is an absorption cooler and they're set. This is such a good idea for so many reasons...


I'd prefer that Germany builds 2 nuclear powerplants instead of 100.000 gasplants.
Use nuclear electricity for peak demand, and use the extra off-peak electricity for H2 production and synthetic fuel production.
Heating should be done with electricity (conventional restistance heaters or heat-pumps), not by burning fossils.
At least, it could be an improvement if it impedes building of coal plants. These distributed 'powerplants' will not last very long and will be abandonned quiet soon when non-fossil energy will be abundant. I don't know of any combustion engine that works continuously for more than a few years. After all every car needs a check every few 10000km.


I recently discovered (to my suprise) that cab drivers put 500,000-700,000 miles on a cab over a seven year lifetime. After reading this i looked at the odometer of the next cab i was in (370,000mi). This suprised me as i always doubted ford's. It occured to me that its the heat/cool cycle that deterioriats vehicles.... Your point about fossil vs. other fuels is a good one, but in an era where we still build nat gas plants in the U.S , why not capture the heat that is otherwise wasted.

Remeber to, neuclear is a big user of water (as is any steam generation plant) and water's scarcity is outpacing fossil fuels.... in the sense of potable water that is..


yikes, lots of spelling errors.. Hopefully you will trust my logic.. Im not Sara Palin "neuclear" plants..


I guess this is ok as a retrofit to an older house but I'd prefer to use negawatts rather than to generate megawatts. Germany is also at the forefront of an idea called Passivhaus;
They don't need heating or cooling so a CHP is useless. A passivhaus has a residual heat demand of just 15 kWh per square meter per year for heating, which corresponds to a fuel value of 1.5 liters of heating oil. This is so low the house can actually be heated by the waste heat of its appliances and the body heat of the people living inside it. According to a definition of the Passivhausinstitut Darmstadt, Germany, all of the primary energy for any extra heat, for hot water and electricity has to remain under 120 kWh per square meter per year. An amount easily handled by a small renewable energy system. Yes, it does require new construction but once built it's usable for a hundred years, or more.


You can also use EP's idea of a co-generation stop gap
Where CHP in one building also produces electricity for running heat pumps in other nearby buildings. These heat pumps also give you a handy deferable load and energy storage which is a good match for wind and off peak nuclear


That's also a good idea 3PS and I've got two more for you: The place I lived in as a kid used district heating;
There were hundreds of houses on its loop.

The second idea is one my grandmother used back in England - ETS units;

I recently discovered (to my suprise) that cab drivers put 500,000-700,000 miles on a cab over a seven year lifetime.
They could get a lot of use out of a set of PHEV batteries in a short time, couldn't they? Taxi stands with fast chargers could also run the climate control without burning liquid fuel.
It occured to me that its the heat/cool cycle that deterioriats vehicles....
A lot of it is lack of maintenance and the action of things like corrosive agents over time. Plastics deteriorate from heat, sun and time, not mileage. Service items like belts are very cheap to replace.

Nuclear doesn't actually "consume" water; it evaporates some (which falls elsewhere) and once-through cooling systems require large flows to keep temperatures near the outlets within limits. Using auxiliary cooling like systems of canals on the plant grounds to radiate heat before the water is discharged can help address this without increasing evaporation much. This idea has been around for a while, but it appears not to be needed often enough for utilities to implement it widely.

Even a simple-cycle gas turbine like the GE H series is far more efficient than an idling ICEV (46%). Electricity from cogenerators can get close to twice that (electric generation divided by additional fuel).


This idea has been pushed in the Netherlands without much success that I know of. Compared to a normal gas fired central heating boiler it is about 10x as expensive, a cool twelve thousand euros. To save a few hundred euros per year on your electric bill, that's a hefty price. Installing solar panels give you a lot more bang for the buck, I can tell you that.


Only true, Anne, if you resort to common sense and logic.


1. With a heat energy production of 40,000 kWh, an electric power of 20 kW and an electric efficiency of 40% this 2.0l engine offers a capacity factor of only 15%. Therefore plenty of non-heat producing time in the summer. (Assuming PV, Wind, current grid and heat pumps, solar-hot-water are covering the rest of the electricity and heat demand or Germans don't wash or shower in the summer).

2. An efficient home with a heat pump can run on electricity 5000 kWh:
A CHP plant with 20 kW and a capacity factor of 30% can essentially power 10 efficient homes with heat pumps and in addition provide heat for the building where it is located. This CHP plant may be small in size but is definitely not small enough to power just one single household (regardless of the number of kids).

3. Given the fact that this is already a mass produced engine, it is at least not an impossibility that this engine is cheaper per kW than a larger CHP plant from Jenbacher or Caterpillar which are produced in smaller numbers.

4. As opposed to an engine in a car, it doesn't have to deal with frequent cold starts (and never has to start at freezing temperatures).

5. €5000 for 20 kW = €0.25 per W. Even if these are not the actual capital costs: Compare this to $8 per W for new nuclear:
Not to mention construction times.

6. Nuclear power plants don't deliver power on short demand (peak power).


The capacity factor of the cogenerator isn't set by its own capabilities. It is set by the ratio of the average to peak heat demand of the application. If you go beyond 15% capacity factor, you will either be supplying supplemental heat during cold snaps (and losing the benefit of cogeneration), or throwing heat away when it's too warm to use it all.

Honda has already provided single-family dwelling-sized engines for the Freewatt cogenerating furnace.


Besides that there's usually not a sudden heat demand or heat loss in a well insulated building (so the CHP plant can easily wait a few of hours for the electricity demand to raise) and the 15% capacity factor is apparently the minimum capacity factor given by the manufacturer (in order for the system to be profitable).
The CHP plant could also be connected to district heating or fitted with a heat energy reservoir or provided with a back-up heat pump (to run on surplus wind):


Onsite electricity is the way to go. Less vulnerable to single point failure or terrorist attack. Electrical distribution wastes 10 to 20 percent of the power generated. Heat energy from combustion is put to use immediately and not wasted. These engines burning NG should last 3 to 5x what they would burning diesel because there is no combustion particulates to create carbon and friction in the cylinders. Also they will be easy to replace with cheap Bloom box style fuel cells when they become readily available.


LichtBlick is leading the way. Several thousand homes with these CHP systems will make a fine demonstration/pilot for distributed energy. Eventually these systems will replace the ICE with SOFCs (eg Bloom) and the NG will be replaced with H2 from water splitting.

Excellent project. Germans appear to be at the head of the new energy curve.

Shyloh Jacobs

Thank you for this article! I have been looking for ways to offer new forms of home improvement and I think this in itself will help people both with the atmosphere and their bills!

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