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Shuriken snowflake
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The main character in my NaNoWriMo novel runs a generator on coal. There are many larger coal fired generators, but for one person? Hmmm. I wonder how much coal would be needed. Heck, I don't even know the basics of a generator... *Shakes head*

As for coal stoves, they actually don't seem all that rare. Looking at pictures and stuff, and wonder still how they "work"...

Now if I knew more about coal mining that would be swell too...

But fiction is fiction... I'll just fill out the blanks. But any input would be appreciated.
 

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I've never heard of a small steam turbine powered generator, I wonder if they do exist. I imagine having to deal with pressure (the heat from the coal boils the water, pressurized steam turns the turbine which turns the generator, producing electricity) makes things more complicated and and difficult to scale down.
An alternative coal powered generator might be a Seebeck Generator. The efficiency sucks but on a small scale that doesn't matter as much -- Make Magazine had a design for a 5 Watt tea-candle powered generator in their last issue. You could burn coal instead of a tea-candle, although I think you'd be closer to 50 watts than 5 with even a small amount of coal. No moving parts except a fan to cool the heat sink, and you can use any heat source.
 

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DIY RPG's
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speedofl33t this is a great idea. i make wood charcole for my brother-inlaws forge so there is the fuel side sortted already and this seams to be an easy thing to do i mean pretty much the same as a coolant system on a car your just useing the stem to spin and alternator really thereby creating current and then storing it to a battery bank or some such ...

...runs of to collect bits and bobs
 

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I happened across a "small" steam engine generator project at otherpower.com link

The folks at otherpower.com are crazy DIYers, it is really easy to get lost for days browsing all the projects and ideas.

Upon further investigation it seems like Seebeck generators are tough to get right and extremely inefficient. They seem to do best when copious amounts of waste heat are available (steam pipes or thermal springs). However if you just need to charge a flashlight or LED light a 5W candle model could be all you need, if you have the time to get it right.

New research may bring efficiency up to 20%, but only at absurdly high temperatures.

I have found mention of WWII era Russian Thermocouple equipped kerosene lamps, so the idea has been thrown around before.
 
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