2
$\begingroup$

There is a TL:DR version below. Fluffy story version:

The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell's equations — then so much the worse for Maxwell's equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation — well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation. Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1915), chapter 4

Well, son, Eddington was wrong about the Chandrasekhar Limit and thus about what cases ought to collapse in deepest humiliation. Someone did it! They made a working engine based on a technological equivalent of Maxwell's daemon.

You ought to see it! It's the darndest thing, on the one hand it must be the most fascinating device known to man, infinite energy, a gift from God himself, but on the other hand, the dullest, most unremarkable metal box around even before you go through what I did.

It has to be entirely sealed to work, and the only item of any interest at all is the electrical inverter on the front, and the signature purple light that Maxwell Corp puts on the front when it's turned on. There's no speed control and only the faintest of hums emanates from it.

The one I saw was about 1 cubic metre, a simple steel box, but it produces 1 kW of electricity, and will do until the world ends. I stayed in that room with it for 4 years, son. Your uncle and I never let that damned box out of our sight for 4 whole years. We lifted it on a forklift. It's the real deal.

After the 4 years, the Maxwell Corp chief engineer finally signed us up. He let us see the inside, what no one else has ever seen, nor ever will, as the seal tamper detection and self destruction unit is unbeatable. There's nothing nuclear and most of the space is empty. It scales up linearly, apparently; if you build one that takes up 20 cubes, it produces 20 kW, and costs $20 times as much. The lifespan's thought to be a century, with Maxwell Corp providing a service contract that you pay for up front.

Now, boy, you and I are different. I never could make a buck. But those big demonstration units that they have downtown, that are written off as a hoax: They aren't. In a few years, every man and his dog are going to want Maxwell Corp shares. Right now only a few crazies like your uncle and I want them. The only question I have is this:

Son, can they make a dollar? I know how much they cost to build. At what price do they stop selling as a real power source and become a curiosity?

PS Let's assume long term real interest rates of 5%.

TL;DR

1 m3 metal box; produces 1 kW of electricity for a century with perfect reliability. Hums faintly.

Produced and maintained by a monopoly company that keeps its secret jealously. Non reverse engineerable. Lump sum payment up front. Proven that it's not a scam.

Scales linearly in both cost and output.

Long term interest rates of 5%.

At what price do they stop selling as a real power source and become a curiosity?

$\endgroup$
13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Storytelling might be nice, but makes your question hidden under a thick layer of fluff and hardly understandable. Can you maybe add a laymen version of the question? $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Feb 13, 2023 at 8:24
  • $\begingroup$ 1 kilowatt times 24 hours is 24 kilowatt-hours. How much is a kilowatt-hour where you live? Why cannot you easily calculate the cut-over cost? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Feb 13, 2023 at 11:50
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @AlexP Premiums for non intermittency, unique risk, political risk, volumetric inefficiency, and most importantly, 'unknown unknowns', which by their nature have not occurred to me. $\endgroup$
    – user86462
    Feb 13, 2023 at 17:09
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There will always be push-back from 'vested interests'. Research the Edison-Westinghouse wars over AC or DC electricity distribution. Expect Walmart-type price drop competition in local sales areas. For instance, Microsoft was able to destroy all competition, even operating systems that were far, far better than Microsoft DOS. How deep are the pockets of Maxwell Corp.? $\endgroup$ Feb 13, 2023 at 17:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Can the unit be turned off? As in if using it mobile application can user flip a switch so don't have to dump thermal energy when say transporting from point a to b? Could be very useful for remote operations. $\endgroup$ Feb 14, 2023 at 1:19

1 Answer 1

4
$\begingroup$

The Parameters

To simplify the question into its component parts:

  • The Box: A 1 meter (39.37") cube generating 1kW of power consistently
  • Output: 1kW-h with an expected lifespan of 100 years, or 36524 days
    • Minor hum from the unit -- Irrelevant to question but may matter if scaled up
  • Total Power Output: If my math is right, 876,576 kW overall power output
  • Cost to Make: Unknown -- Not stated in question.
  • Scaling: Linear for size to output and cost

TL;DR

They become a curiosity so long as they cannot compete with the utility companies or if nobody wants the product for whatever reason.

They become a real power source once they are competitive with other power companies and there is a sufficient demand for the product.

Pricing

I will throw some personal experience as a person that pays a power bill -- I would not be buying this generator unless it kept my power bill roughly the same, with maybe a modest uptick for reliability's sake

See, the real value and selling point of Maxwell's generator is its consistency. It's never going to give you up, and it's never going to let you down. It's never going to break down and desert you, usually on the hottest day of the year when you need that air conditioning. Unless the wiring in your house fails, the generator will keep you in power for a century, or whatever its lifetime ends up being. That is worth paying a bit extra for.

To use some recent numbers, my power and delivery of power combined is roughly 60 per month. Adding 25% to that for the relief of total reliability would make that total $75 per month.

For me, the sticker price is not going to matter for this. If the monthly payment works out to more than $75/month once all is said and done then it is not worth it for me personally.

But Numbers!

Some considerations based on where I live in Canada:

  • Power is priced at 7.4, 10.2, or 15.1 cents per kilowatt-hour (based on time of day)
  • There is an additional roughly 10 cents per unit for delivery fees on the power
  • Maxwell's Generator contains roughly $132,362.98 worth of power in it over 100 years if you charge the highest rate as a utility company for all of it

However, data that might be interesting on a small scale:

  • My residence used 341kW-h in a 30 day period, or 11.367 kW-h per day

Adding that last fact means that for me personally, one of these generators should be worth about $120/month to me since I'm getting twice the power than I'm paying for now. But the thing is I don't need twice the power I'm using, so I'm not likely to buy it just for that.

However if I can sell the power I don't need back to the utility company for some money back, then things get more interesting. I'm not likely to get $45 (120 - 75) for the power, but if enough of the extra costs can be offset by the rebates of selling power back, then it might be back to worth it.

Worthiness

Based on my power company experience, I would expect Maxwell's Generator to be worth roughly $150/month adding a 25% reliability premium on the cost of the power that I currently pay.

Personally, I think once you hit 300 to 400 dollars a month, it is starting to get into curiosity territory.

For the record, that is for the single unit generator. Scale up linearly for the larger ones as per the question.

You will notice a lack of a lump sum price. That is because I will not be taking a suitcase of money and buying this -- I would be financing this like I would a house or new car. It is a combination of the sticker price and the financing period that will create a price that I can live with or walk away from.

Bonus: Side Hustles

Batteries to store and regulate power over high and low demand points are almost a necessity of this system and that is something else Maxwell Corp could get into and make another mint on.

$\endgroup$
3
  • $\begingroup$ You won't be able to sell the power back to the utility if everyone has one of these. Actually, you need a 10kW generator for your peak loads, but you only use 5kW most of the time. The utility company buys 20 of them and shares them to 39 people so they only have to pay for half, plus wiring. $\endgroup$
    – user253751
    Feb 13, 2023 at 15:37
  • $\begingroup$ True, you might not be able to sell the power back if everyone has one. But until that point, one probably could. The point about the loads is a good thing to know -- My thought was that a battery or capacitor to store the charge generated would allow for higher draws when needed and can store the power when not used. But that wasn't really in the scope of the question so I left it as a side point. $\endgroup$
    – Haylen
    Feb 14, 2023 at 0:58
  • $\begingroup$ Economies of scale are cheaper than batteries. $\endgroup$
    – user253751
    Feb 14, 2023 at 19:16

You must log in to answer this question.