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March 7, 2007

Hot Technology Series – Power Efficiency

Category: Efficiency,Exciting Companies,New Technology – Dan 3:34 pm

While checking out the exhibits at the Power-Gen Renewable Energy and Fuels conference yesterday, I spoke at length with Chuck Rusch of Power Efficiency Corporation. This is a company that has been languishing in the backwater for years, and has a hot technology that deserves to be on the front page.

While wind and solar are the high-visibility technologies, it seems that conservation and efficiency always gets a seat in the back. Industrial efficiency seems especially dull, despite the fact that industry consumes 30% of more of the nation’s energy. Electric motors are estimated to be a huge portion of this consumption – I’m recalling 20% (but should look this up!).

Power Efficiency’s product, Power Genius, is a next generation “soft-start” product. Now a traditional soft-start product moderates the start power used by an electric motor, ramping up the power as needed to avoid the huge start-up electric surge. Once the motor is up to speed and full voltage, the soft-start’s job is done.

Unlike traditional solutions, Power Efficiency’s product constantly senses the workload of AC induction motors. when the workload is lower than the motor’s rating, the circuits reduce the energy (voltage and current) to only what the motor needs. The engine still runs at it’s rated speed, and if the load increases the power is raised up in microseconds to ensure sufficient torque and a constant motor speed.

Savings on energy costs are typically 20-40% because most motors work well below rated levels much of the time. An additional benefit is that the motor runs cooler, because it’s not consuming energy that it doesn’t need. This provides an additional energy savings for motors in enclosed temperature controlled environments, reducing the required cooling load.

Even I’ve fallen into the trap in thinking that efficiency is boring. Here’s a company with a product that provides proven savings for a vast number of industrial and commercial motor applications — check it out!

February 28, 2007

Hot Technology Series – Stirling Energy Systems

Concentrating solar makes sense. If you concentrate the sun using mirrors (a well understood and cheap technology), you have more light and heat to work with, and the actual collectors can be smaller.

So check out Stirling Energy Systems (SES)!

Sterling Energy Systems dishSterling Energy System’s product is a 37′ sun tracking mirrored dish with a sterling engine mounted at the center. The sun is focused on the engine, which powers a generator creating electricity. What’s hot about this technology?

  • Standardized manufacturing – As SES ramps up production, they will be able to crank these out by the hundreds. Efficient to produce, and easy to install, these will lower the cost of solar electricity.
  • Proven technology – Mirrors clearly are proven, and sun tracking systems have been around for decades. The sterling engine is also proven and has been in industrial use for many years.
  • Low maintenance – The sterling engine is a closed cycle system that uses a working fluid. There’s no intake, no exhaust, no explosions, or any of the things that cause engines to need intensive maintenance. Maintenance only involves lubricating the tracking mechanism, and washing the mirrors occasionally.
  • Low impact – Besides creating shade, these collectors have no impact. They use no water (except for washing), there no drilling, there are no emissions.

SES has signed two major contracts for installations, one for a 300 MW system with San Diego Gas and Electric, and a second for a 500 MW system with Southern California Edison. In March ’06 they were rated #1 in Fast Company magazine’s “Fast 50”.