Among fledgling Danish cleantech companies, Stirling DK has certainly succeeded in making its presence felt in a big way. The company, which manufactures and sells CO2 neutral combined heat and power (CHP) plants based on biomass-fired Stirling engines, has been particularly successful at attracting investment cash – DKK 82.3m (USD 15.7m) this year alone – making it the fifth biggest raiser of capital in Europe's cleantech sector.
Now, with the UN Climate Change Conference COP15 just around the corner, Stirling has prepared itself well for the delegates from 192 countries that will be descending on Copenhagen from 7-18 December, by putting a demonstration plant and visitor facility into operation at a waste incineration site on Amager (close to the Bella Center where COP15 will take place) for potential customers to see and experience the technology up close, reports financial daily newspaper Børsen.
The CO2 neutral plant, which uses wood chips as fuel and is housed in three standard 20 foot shipping containers, produces 140 kW of heat and 35 kW of electricity which is respectively fed into Copenhagen's district heating system and grid. The total energy production of the demonstration plant corresponds to the consumption of 70 average Copenhagen households – which, it should be remembered, use a great deal more electricity than an average household in say, a small island developing state.
The clever thing about Stirling's plant, which as mentioned is constructed inside 3 standard shipping containers, is that the containers unloaded at the destination port are in effect the factory-assembled plant itself, ready to be transported on a standard container trucks to the installation site. There is no 'unpacking' of components or major assembly work to do, so start-up will be a fast process.
While Stirling is rightly regarded in Denmark as a cutting-edge cleantech company with considerable potential, it is intriguing to note that the Stirling engine itself is far from new: it was invented almost 200 years ago by a Scottish clergyman. But it has certain characteristics that are well suited to today's increasingly energy-conscious world. For one thing, it is highly efficient – in theory it is the most thermodynamically efficient of all heat engines. And for another, it can theoretically run on any source of heat energy, biomass for instance, since the fuel is combusted outside the engine cylinders rather than inside them.
Isolated communities that currently use diesel generators to produce electrical power are an obvious (and plentiful) target for Stirling's CHP systems since they can be customized to run on locally available biomass which otherwise may be thrown away, such as agricultural waste.