Solar panels and combined heat and power are two examples of distributed generation technologies that produce electricity at or close to the location where it will be used.
Distributed-generation may power a single building, like a house or a business, or it may be a component of a microgrid (a smaller grid that is connected to the larger electricity delivery system), such as a sizable factory, military base, or university campus.
Distributed generation can enable the delivery of clean, dependable power to more consumers and minimise electricity losses along transmission and distribution lines when connected to the electric utility’s lower voltage distribution lines.
Common distributed generating systems in the residential sector include:
- Photovoltaic solar cells
- Small-scale windmills
- fuel cells powered by natural gas
- Generators for emergencies that are typically powered by gasoline or diesel fuel
Distributed generation in the business and industrial sectors can use resources like:
- Systems that combine heat and power
- Photovoltaic solar cells
- Burning biomass or cofiring
- burning of municipal solid trash
- Fuel cells powered by biomass or natural gas
- Oil may be used to power reciprocating combustion engines, including backup generators.
What are the Environmental Impacts of Distributed Generation?
By reducing the amount of electricity that must be produced at centralised power plants, distributed generating can lessen the negative environmental effects of centralised generation. Specifically:
- Renewable energy sources like solar and wind can be used to create electricity at homes and businesses utilising existing, cost-effective distributed generation systems.
- Energy that may otherwise be squandered can be captured by distributed-generation, such as through a combined heat and power system.
- Distributed generation lowers or eliminates line loss (wasted energy) that occurs during transmission and distribution in the electricity delivery system by utilising local energy sources.
Also Read: What is Distribution Power?
Distributed generation, though, may potentially have detrimental effects on the environment:
- Due to their footprint (the amount of space they occupy) and proximity to the end user, certain distributed-generation systems may be unsightly or raise issues with land use.
- Combustion-based distributed generating methods, particularly those that burn fossil fuels, can have many of the same negative effects as bigger fossil fuel-fired power plants, including air pollution.
- These effects could be less drastic than those from a big power plant, but they might also be closer to populous areas.
- Water may be needed for steam generation or cooling in some distributed-generation methods, including waste incineration, biomass combustion, and combined heat and power.
- Due to economies of scale, combustion-based distributed generation systems may be less effective than centralized power plants.
When distributed energy systems reach the end of their useful lives and are changed or removed, various adverse environmental effects could result.