Digital Disruptor Spotlight
Digital Disruption Through Micro Co-Generation with EnviroPower
Welcome to our Digital Disruptor series where we profile promising companies that are challenging the status quo and offering new approaches that rethink industry. We will be providing interviews and profiling promising companies and entrepreneurs from seed to growth stage. Our first company – EnviroPower - is actually using non digital technology in an innovative way to address the demands of an increasingly sophisticated energy ecosystem.
Why is this important?
With the growing adoption of clean energy generation, particularly rooftop solar, utilities and homeowners are seeking ways to provide alternative sources of energy while helping to reduce load on the grid. The advent of utility-scale solar, wind and energy storage is driving innovation around DERMS (Distributed Energy Resource Management Systems) software along with creative approaches to managing the balance of generation and demand from non-traditional sources. Sometimes innovation can be simpler and closer to home. What EnviroPower has done with their SmartWatt micro co-generation solution is to provide an alternative electricity generation solution that converts energy that would otherwise be wasted after creating heat and hot water, turning into a source of backup or even primary power. The potential for networked virtual power plants across communities could provide a resilient alternative to reliance on a single grid. It’s this type of innovation that we like to highlight as outside the conventional thinking, but simple and practical as well. Next week we’ll be sharing a podcast interview with CEO Dan Nadav – stay tuned.
About Key Leadership
CEO Dan Nadav of EnviroPower has been in the energy industry for 20 years within Distributed Generation, Business Development and Project Development. He has focused deeply on micro co-generation close to the end user. EnviroPower has raised seed investment and currently is using its backlog of letters of intent and purchase orders in its current fundraising round.
The Energy Challenges Ahead
The Electrical Power Research Institute (EPRI) describes clean energy as the biggest transition in the last 120 years. However, there are fundamental challenges – Solar PV and home-based batteries require different infrastructure. Existing micro co-generation solutions can not replace existing regular heating system and the typical home has only one heating system. The challenge of other solutions is that they are not positioned for effective displacement.
What is unique about EnviroPower is that they started the other way around, creating a high efficiency boiler with built in power generator without increasing the price. After 5 years of R&D, the company has the design for a micro steam turbine that is integrated into the boiler unit.
What is the solution?
EnviroPower’s SmartWatt builder builds on a normal boiler. The unique element is that they have introduced another set of coils to generate steam on demand between the burner and the hot water coil. The steam expands and condenses and is then recaptured again. The only new unit on the boiler is the micro turbine that costs $1,000.
Heating efficiency is 85%, electric efficiency is 10% - so there is only 5% of energy that is not converted. The waste from the boiler can be turned into electricity. In total, the electricity from the boiler costs around 3.5 cents ($0.035) per KwH. This can serve as base load or the boiler can provide backup power - regardless of whether the customer needs heat or not. This is continuous backup power that can be used as long as you need it.
Who are the customers?
Currently the company has been working with Real Estate and Gas Utilities, where there is interest in reducing costs for electricity generation on the homeowner/landlord side, while utilities are interested in finding ways to manage peak load.
What is the ROI?
The ROI is calculated against the premium to the price a regular boiler which would cost around $5,000, as it’s not a discretionary spend. Typically, the premium is paid back in 1-2 years. A boiler can save money for a landlord of a multi-tenant building and for the homeowner the advantage is that it can serve the electric load cheaper than the grid.
What are the potential benefits?
When units are aggregated, they can be turned into a virtual power plant or virtual network – you can serve the grid operator by helping to manage peak load without the challenges of demand-response. In California there is not a lot of need for space heat but there is a lot of use of hot water in multifamily buildings. Smart boilers can reduce peak load operating when the grid experiences peak-demand and help the grid operators. They generate hot water and electricity at 95% efficiency, and if they don’t need the heat right away they can store it in a buffer-tank; you don’t care when the water was heated.
Next week we’ll be sharing a podcast interview with CEO Dan Nadav – stay tuned.
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