Dean Kamen Sees Stirling Engines Replacing Grid as Power Source Within a Decade

Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway personal transporter and numerous other devices (mainly in the medical field) is working on developing a generator that could help people say goodbye to the grid as we know it. Forbes has an article by Christopher Helman about a Stirling engine-based generator called the Beacon that can produce continuous power and can run on any heat source — natural gas being the typical one envisaged for domestic use in the United States.

Kamen is working with David Crane, CEO of US Utiligy NRG Energy to develop and eventually deploy the Beacon to customers served by NRG. The business plan is for the utility to lease, rather than sell the beacon to customers of the utility — a similar model that NRG is used to deploy rooftop solar to its customers.

Kamen is using a 10 kW model in David Crane’s basement for testing purposes, and has been running a 2.5 kW version of the Beacon in his home for four years. Helman writes:

Kamen’s contribution has been in engineering his Stirling with the most high-performance materials. He started off using skilled welders to put together key parts of the engine made out of exotic alloys. More recently he’s figured out how make those pieces with even more precision using 3-D printing. Crane says a key element in Kamen design was the perfection of a little plastic membrane that looks like a condom. The Beacon, which weighs about 1,500 pounds and is the size of a washing machine, also includes a battery system, which can be integrated with other distributed generation systems like solar panels.

Kamen is very optimistic about the future of the Beacon. He says that it will go into production in about 18 months — first with larger models that could be used in commercial settings and large homes. Later, as costs go down, he sees them being used ubiquitously throughout the United States — and worldwide. He states, “I’d say . . . ten years from today the probability that you are depending on wires hanging on tree branches is as likely as that you’ll still be installing land lines for telephones. Close to zero.”

The Beacon can run on any heat source — Kamen talks about using cow dung and olive oil as heat sources in some parts of the world. Here at ECW we understand the potential for LENR to be a low cost heat source, and it would seem to be a promising candidate to work with devices like the Beacon. Perhaps in 10 years time we will have seen the development of domestic LENR heaters that could be used to power the Beacon or other Stirling engine-based generators.

(Thanks to the Martin Fleischmann Memorial Project for the link to this on their Facebook page)