Ener-G-Rotors initially plans to target industries, such as chemicals, paper, oil, and food, that use plenty of energy and also release a tremendous amount of waste heat, Newell says. Later, the company also hopes to participate in solar-thermal and geothermal projects, and to target consumers with a one-kilowatt system.
The company is installing its first beta unit, a five-kilowatt system, in a combined heat-and-power plant at Harbec Plastics. It is also installing betas at a steam plant for New York utility Consolidated Edison and at a landfill-gas-burning plant for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
Edward Ecock, manager of research and development for gas and steam at ConEd, says that Ener-G-Rotors’ system is more efficient than others that he’s seen. In a power plant that uses steam generators, it could have the added benefit of reducing the amount of water needed to cool the steam condensation and cutting additional sewage costs for getting rid of the extra water, he says.
Low-temperature waste-heat technologies “really are where the industry is going,” says Mark Taylor, an analyst at research firm New Energy Finance. “This potentially could be applied to every coal plant, every nuclear-power, every natural-gas plant. Steel, anything that makes heat–anything.”
If the betas pan out, Ener-G-Rotors plans to expand to a 50-kilowatt demonstration, which is much smaller than the scale that most of its competitors are targeting. Newell says that the company is hoping the smaller size will open up a market for smaller industrial waste-heat streams.
But first, the betas need to pan out. “If it’s not economical, we won’t want to go to the 50 kilowatts,” Ecock says.
Ener-G-Rotors also needs money. It has raised “a few hundred thousand” in grants and angel funding and is now seeking $5 million for the first tranche of a $20 million venture-capital round.
And it will face plenty of competition as the market heats up, Taylor warns. A crop of companies, including larger players such as United Technologies, which makes aircraft, aerospace systems, and air conditioning, and smaller companies such as ElectraTherm, are also pursuing low-temperature technologies–and they already have systems installed.
Still, Newell is confident that his company can stand out.
“Our technology is more efficient and simpler than anything else out there right now,” he says. “There aren’t many technologies that are going to work here. And we think we have the lowest cost of any of the technologies out there.”