“When you’re talking about waste heat, every business, every industry, is generating some sort of energy byproduct, some sort of heat; it’s going up in smokestacks and nobody is using it. And the question is, can we capture that energy and use it in a smart way? That’s what ElectraTherm is all about.” - US President Barack Obama
September 11, 2001 changed me, as it did many of us, forever.
Prior to that fateful day, I was involved with a Silicon Valley Marketing firm I had founded with a partner while owning and operating the Players West Tour, a women’s professional developmental golf tour fielding tournaments to prepare young professionals for a chance at the LPGA tour. Too old to volunteer for military service, I directed my energy (anger) at ways in which I could help my country in the wake of the attack.
Drawing from my college days of studying oil politics in the Middle East, I decided to utilize my business development skills and get into the energy business. I was anxious to do something…anything to improve my country’s chances to survive in the post 9/11 world. With very limited knowledge of energy and the way it was used in America, I began my research to determine how I could make a difference…or even if I could make a difference...
During this discovery period, I learned that because of wholly inefficient combustible processes, over 60% of all fuel used by American industry, goes up in smoke. Think of your car’s engine as you drive, 1,000-degree heat leaves the exhaust pipe as unspent fuel…available energy dumped to the atmosphere…wasted. This realization led me to study the concept of combined heat and power (CHP), the practice of recovering this unspent fuel and applying it to thermal needs…making the process more efficient by delivering more work for the same amount of fuel.
The epiphany moment came when I met a man experimenting with the concept of using this waste heat to make electricity. While the concept of high temperature heat to power existed at the utility scale level, nobody had ever successfully harnessed the science of low temperature heat to power at a size or price point accessible by American industry. After successfully negotiating a patent licensing agreement with City University of London for a "positive displacement expander" (our energy block of choice), ElectraTherm was launched.
In 2007, we won "Best of Show" as the first company ever to display a working power plant at the Geothermal Energy Association's largest Trade Show. In 2008, we received national recognition from Popular Science Magazine's "Best of What's New Award, Green Tech." Then, The Wall Street Journal's Technology Innovation Award named the ElectraTherm "Green Machine" one of the top technology innovations of 2009. We even hosted a visit by President Obama in 2011, praising our technology in front of over 400 movers and shakers in the energy industry. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8qcHWFxTD)
In the course of about 10 years, ElectraTherm commercialized small scale waste heat to power emission-free electricity, for commercial and small industrial use. Every kWh generated from the Green Machine is one less generated from fossil fuels, often blamed for environmental pollution. Every Green Machine deployed in American industry reduces CO2 emissions by ~202 metric tons a year, equivalent to the CO2 from 22,591 gallons of gas. With a 20 year lifespan that’s 4,040 metric tons or 451,820 gallons of gas for every Green Machine deployed!
My side of the story ended when ElectraTherm, Inc. was purchased by BITZER, the world’s largest independent manufacturer of industrial and commercial refrigeration equipment. BITZER is comprised of 46 companies and is represented in more than 90 countries with 72 locations and over 3,800 employees. Today, ElectraTherm, Inc. (www.electratherm.com) manufactures and sells its Series 4000 Green Machine, a 35kW – 65kW platform using low temperature waste heat to make emission-free electricity throughout the world.
This is the America I grew up in! The America I choose to defend for my kids and grandkids!