An Economist Looks at the E-Cat (Part Four): E-Cats in Existing Power Stations, or in Homes?

This is the fourth and final post in a series written by Paul Bennett, PhD candidate in economics at George Mason University.

Is it best to “drop in” E-Cats into existing power stations, or deploy them into homes for individual use?

This issue may not be primarily a question of economics, but I want to give an opinion on it anyway. Twenty years from now there will be no electricity grid and every home will have its own E-Cat generating heat and power. All those unsightly and failure prone power lines will have been removed. All moving vehicles will be powered by E-Cats and gas stations will all have disappeared.

So is there any point in developing units that can be “dropped into” existing power stations? It depends on the cost, safety and ease of use of a home sized unit, on how the cost of power produced by such a unit compares to the cost of power produced in much larger power station sized units, and on the speed at which each is developed.

The advantages of the home unit approach are: (a) people like to be independent, (b) the units are less likely to be impacted by natural disasters, (c) the inefficiency of converting heat to electricity and then back to heat to heat your home has to make the possibility of direct heat production in the home unit very price competitive, (d) no power loss in transmission, (e) no maintenance costs for the transmission lines, (f) no need for transformers in every neighborhood.

The advantages of continuing to use power stations: (g) If the E-Cat requires skilled technicians to keep it running, this would be much more efficiently done in a centralized power station, (h) If the E-Cat cannot be made safe for home use, it may be possible to operate it safely in an industrial installation, (i) the capital cost of a unit may make it unattractive for individual purchase by the majority of the population. Note. I do not include any mention of the value of the infrastructure already deployed.

Any economist will tell you that sunk costs are already sunk and have no place in the decision as to how to go forward. Looking at the above list, I am convinced that (g) and (h) will be quickly overcome. Mr. Rossi has estimated that the capital cost of deploying a unit will be about $2,000 per kw. I suspect that a typical house will need about 5 kw. So we are looking at $10,000 for a typical home. This is a lot more than a new furnace and if it remains this high it may slow the deployment of home units.

I suspect that even if the price does not come down, some enterprising businessman will come up with a scheme whereby the unit is placed in the customer’s home, but remains the property of the businessman and the businessman sells the electricity and heat to the homeowner at a rate that makes him a handsome profit. In this way (i) becomes a non-issue. In short, I won’t be investing in any businesses that would benefit from the “drop in” approach.

Paul Bennett

  • Sebastian

    Hi there,
    I would say that 5KW is way too low for a typical 4-persons-household.
    For electricity AND heating you will at least need something like 12KW.
    (Mom cooking: 3KW, Dad working in his shop: 1.5KW, Children watching TV and playing computer games: 0.5KW + standby electronics + winter time etc)

    If all your neighbors use an E-cat themselves there could be some kind of neighborhood electricity grid, though, maybe allowing installations of 8KW E-cats only.

    • Paul

      You could well be right. I was thinking that the house I lived in had a 100 amp main supply breaker which was never triggered. Also most of the individual circuits are 20 amps or less – also almost never triggered unless a defective unit is attached.

      I had forgotten heat. On reflection, I think that heat will just be a byproduct of the electricity. The demand for electricity is very erratic and the need for heat is not very time critical. I would guess that there will have to be some sort of short term electrical storage to cope with response time issues. This could also be made to provide temporary peak supply above the steady state capacity and divert power from the heating to electrical generation.

      I guess the bottom line is that I still think 5kw is sufficient for today’s consumption level, with averaging and using waste heat for heating, but energy use will certainly increase with the cheapness of supply. So expect bigger units in future.

    • Firstly, we must determine the amount of electricity our house uses for average extended periods:

      We know the maximum we need. Many have 100 amp service (100a * 240v = 24kw). (I have 150amp service, or 28kw.)
      We can also look at our electric bill to determine our average usage. My bill is about $100/month, and my rate is about $.10 per kw/h. My monthly usage, then, is about 1000 kw/h per month, 33kw/h per day, about 1.4kw/h per hour, or 1.4kw of electricity.
      However, our usage for average extended periods is clearly more than 1.4kw. If we have the stove on full blast and dryer on full blast we may be using as much as 50a * 220v (30 amp double breaker for stove, 20 amp double breaker for dryer). That’s 12kw. So if we don’t want to brown out we probably need about 12kw of e-cat power.

      Secondly generating electricity from heat is only about 30% efficient. When we calculate the size of the e-cat we need we must multiply by 3. We now need 36kw of e-cat. The first e-cats will be 10kw rated, so we’ll need four to power our house.

      Thirdly, the steam engine and generator must be able to handle the largest bursts. The largest burst usage is the rating of our main breaker (100 amp = 24kw, 150 = 36kw). To maintain a continuous output of 36kw we’ll need over 100 kw of e-cats. However, the e-cat can load a container with 300 degree steam. This container acts as a buffer which will allow us to power the generator at a full 36kw for short periods, but maintain a continuous output of 12kw.

      That said, there are no steam engines on the market that can produce 36kw (48hp), at least I can’t find one. Finding an AC generator that can produce 36kw burst is most probably possible, however buying it detached from a diesel unit may be difficult.

      As far as heat goes, using the steam as your heat source is very close to 100% efficient. It makes no sense to convert to electricity then heat with electricity. Further, all of the inefficiencies (the whole system is about 30% efficient) show up as heat. Merely having this activity in your house will provide a lot of heat. (If you live in a warm climate, keeping the e-cat generator outside will make total sense.)

      That’s the bottom line, folks. We’ll get there fairly soon, but we’re not there yet.

  • Notes on the primary post:

    I do not believe that the grid will be gone as fast as 20 years. Electricity will become very easy to produce. The grid/home equation will balance around the cost of a home unit + maintenance hassles vs the cost of the maintenance of the grid. It’ll take some time for the existing grid to disappear. It will, however, be hard to justify any significant grid expansion.

    “I suspect that even if the price does not come down…” History has spoken a million times on this matter. The cost will soon come down to nearly the cost of materials, plus any royalties that must be paid out. The nickel and hydrogen will have an inconsequential price tag. The catalyst is a bit of an unknown, but not likely to be expensive. There seems to be very little other technology there. The lead, well, if lead substitutes are not found it’ll be a bit of a factor. It currently costs about $1 per pound. The 10kw reactor weighs 80kg (abt 200 lb) If all of that is lead, we have a cost of $200. Not consequential.

    To get electricity, or any other power other than heat, the heat must be converted. The most obvious conversion systems are steam and stirling. The steam or stirling engine and the generator will cost some serious bucks. However, a steam engine is fundamentally cheaper to build than an internal combustion engine. Though generators of the size required may not be common, generator technology is rather optimized. There will definitely be some cost to an e-cat home electricity system or an e-cat car. However the e-cat unit itself will hardly register as a cost once mass production has taken its tole.

    • John Dlouhy

      FYI you don’t need lead to stop gamma rays, you only need mass. I asked Rossi many months ago if you could use other materials like iron, water or even just pile up earth and he said yes.

      • I think you are right, the lead supply issue is no big deal. However, lead is a very good insulator of gamma rays, volume for volume. In many cases, like transportation, volume is important.

  • Peter

    Public demonstrations are no substitute for independent testing. No secrets need to be revealed. If the performance is as claimed, independent tests will confirm it. That is the only way to gain credibility. Not doing it has the opposite effect.

    • I’ll be one of his independent testers as soon as he accepts my $20,000. I’ll independently heat my sub-arctic home with it.

  • Brad Arnold

    I was going crazy earlier when I thought that the E-Cat would replace existing coal plants. Then, Rossi comes out with the information that the E-Cat would first be used at existing steam turbines to pre-heat the water. That means we will see a gradual transition to LENR, rather than an abruptly destabilizing one that could have a severely damaging effect on financial markets.

    On the other hand, if you start putting E-Cats into every house, by-passing the utilities, you will see gigantic power monopolies go under. Somebody is going to have to pay for those costs. While LENR technology is without a doubt highly destabilizing (i.e. one tenth the cost), there are ways it can be implemented that reduce the pain of transition.

    There is a third factor: if a stand alone E-Cat was to be introduced to the market, we can expect to see people around the world settling places that formerly were uninhabited because they lacked a grid. Such a demographically change is staggering, and ought to allow places with low or virtually non-existent population densities to become settlements.

  • web4YOU

    Mr. Rossi is not the only one who has a patent one LENR powered devices.

    There is a German patented invention who use the LENR Energy of NiH not only make hot water or steam, they made directly mechanical energie.
    The invention is: put the Ni-H reactor directly into a stirling engine where the working gas is the same as the reaction gas: hydrogen.

    The best way to power our cars in the future.

    The cars of the future will be our electricity suppliers for homes and industry, because 90% of there time they don´t drive they park somewhere and deliver electricity to a lokal grid.

  • Prognosticator

    This post is nonsense. Stick to economics and not engineering.

  • John McManus

    A steam engine is far more efficient,cheaper & more tolerant of particles etc which will wreck a turbine. A modern design engine, aka “ is alsovery light & easy/cheap to build. These would probably have to have the seals changed every 3 months. Not a biggy. For 50 kilwatts & below this is thenly way to go.
    5 kw generator 1000 Us, 5 kw steam engine green type about the same or less. this is adequate if u only use one appliance ata time. I.E. not stove & hot water heater to gether just requires energy management as with solar etc.
    Steam boat syle engine heavy & expensive 3000 Us. This still a ceap energy souce if taken over a ten year period or so.
    In Nz we use gas for heating. Electric for water heat & cooker. Average our family of 3 80US. per month based on 11kwatt per day. Cost per unit is .22cents.
    Kiwi John McManus

  • D2

    I think the idea of distributed power will also open up a whole new market for development because land that is currently inaccessible to the power grid will all of a sudden become develop-able, not to mention what it will do for the people that live mo-billy (i.e. motor home, boats, etc.) the demand for these vehicles will go up drastically because they will suddenly have nearly unlimited range with the cost of fuel becoming a non-issue.

  • Gray Champion

    I am for the E-Cats in the homes or in small block sized Public Utility Districts. There is more freedom for the individual this way. We have never really had real competition with the large utility companies and it would be great to expose them to some un-monopolistic free-market forces! GO E-CAT – GO FREEDOM!!