EPRI Distributed Resources Venture Forum

— Business Venture Forum for Emerging Distributed Resources Technology Companies, Investors, and Market Channels
— 7/25/2001 – 7/26/2001

Agenda download is still available:

EPRI solutions’ Second Annual Business Forum was designed to bring together leading Distributed Resource (DR) technology companies, the energy utility industry, and energy industry investors for the exchange of information related to business and investment opportunities. The Forum was structured as a venture fair with 15-minute presentations from 13 leading DR companies, followed by an afternoon of “breakout” sessions, for small group/individual meetings with the company representatives.

EPRI will issue a CD with all the presentations. Most were provided in hard copy in a binder. Additional company materials were selectively provided at the breakout sessions.

We’ve seen a number of the presenting companies before, as they’ve appeared at other similar events over the last couple of years. Side conversations also led to some interesting additional leads.

These notes are intentionally brief. If you’re interested in contacts or more details for any of these companies, let me know.


Dais Analytic – yet another small company pushing PEM. Distinctions include “great” reformer technology, about which nothing was disclosed, and a proprietary membrane material. The membrane is the subject of a major JV with a major chemical company (unnamed), and holds great promise in an air-to-air heat exchanger, MERV, which exchanges not only heat, but also water vapor. MERV greatly reduces heating and A/C loads by preconditioning incoming fresh air. This company’s “dual” play is either appealing or not, depending on your investment philosophy (and your view of PEM’s prospects). MERV appears to offer prospect of early real revenues while awaiting PEM to ripen. On the other hand, it’s two different businesses, which can be hard for a small company to do effectively.

Candent Technologies – a brand new stealth (til now) arrival on the microturbine front. Very experienced personnel coming out of Rolls Royce, (which decided not to do a microturbine) take a different design approach, and will target a 750 KW unit size, eventually as low as $350/KW. They specifically are avoiding the use of recuperators, as expensive and unreliable, and will use a high pressure spool instead. No new technology is involved, so they’re projecting a rapid development, direct to beta pre-production stage, skipping a prototype. Looking for $3 Million now, and $20 M in another round following demonstration.

PEPCo Technologies – GenerLink. Spinoff of PEPCo, selling an standby generator interface for homeowners. Said they have 2 investors that are going ahead (one is strategic, the other a VC). I have to agree with what I heard most people say– it’s hard to imagine there are very many people who would want this.

Pentadyne Power Corp. High speed flywheel, continuing development work by Rosen Motors. Targeting high power/short duration ride-through application. First units will be 120 KW for 20 seconds. Novel approach to safety containment using double shell with liquid in-between (originally conceived for onboard vehicle use, where heavy shielding is not possible). Claim very low standby loss/idling load, and low cost once in large quantity production.

Powerco US/Ocean Power — a new private marketing arm, formed as subsidiary to Ocean Power (NASDAQ PWRE). Initial focus on small stirling engine they acquired in Norway, but parent company has too many breakthrough technologies in its arsenal to believe, ranging from diesel CHP, dish PV, fuel cells…and they didn’t even mention desalination, another area they claim to have cornered. http://www.powerco.com/

Ceramic Fuel Cells Ltd — Solid Oxide FC contender in Australia that appears quite credible. In the breakout session they showed a new all-ceramic stack configuration that is looking very promising. Market entry product is a 40 KW generator, to operate on straight methane (SOFC is autoreforming, so no fuel processor needed). http://www.cfcl.com.au/content.htm

BCS Technology — a tiny company from Texas, founded 1990, with “self-humidified” PEM fuel cell stacks and MEAs. They’ve sold over 100 small stacks.

ALM Turbine — This company looked overly ambitious when they started raising money 1-2 years ago, but they say their progress is on track. Their first engine is just about ready for tests, and preliminary emissions data for their burner technology is promising. Their engine is completely scalable in size, from 25-350 KW, and they claim high efficiency, and high part load performance. Design relies heavily on exhaust gas recirculation. http://www.almturbine.com

Sixth Dimension — Until recently, it was difficult to understand what this company did, but they’re doing better at explaining it now. They’re a “network operating system” for communicating with any/all types, brands etc of energy producing, consuming and monitoring devices, e.g. meters, gensets, building control systems, energy analytics systems, etc. They put a “gateway” box on site which they call “Embedded Site Server”, to which 16 devices can be connected. Each device gets a smaller box called the “Power Tone Adapter” which can be outside or inside the device. The system of proprietary hardware and software makes possible all manner of clever monitoring and control functions. This sounds like what Encorp says, but they say Encorp can only do these things if you have Encorp switchgear. 6th is far more equipment-agnostic.

Alternative Designs Inc — ADI has unique stirling engine technology enabling operation at much higher temperatures, attaining efficiencies of 50% and greater. Other enhancements include an advanced regenerator, and simplified heater head design, leading to big cost reductions and higher reliability. [I am an advisor to this company.]

DayStar Technologies — Unique PV cell technology. Company first developed a “flat-plate concentrator” technology that was clever and intriguing, but would require extensive capital development. DayStar is now focused primarily on their own cadmium-telluride “thin-film-on-metals” solar cells. The cells are manufactured in sheets, which can be used whole, or cut into cells which can be a direct “replacement” for Si cells, at half the cost.

Rolls Royce — as noted above, RR decided not to pursue a microturbine development, despite having invested quite a bit of money in it. Instead, they’re going for a special purpose turbine to be combined with their own planar SOFC. Program began in 1992. This 1 MW hybrid is to be ready by 2005. RR will fund most of the program internally, but will seek strategic partners for funding, and technical/marketing support, leading to a possible spinoff company.

Vanteck(VRB) Technology Corp. — (public company, CNDX symbol VRB ) commercializing the vanadium redox battery technology, and in particular VESS, for Vanadium Energy Storage Systems. The company is in the midst of straightening out a particularly messy history of corporate ownership of IP and market rights, but assuming that can be done, are focusing on the US market. This is flow-battery has some uniquely attractive features, including high round trip efficiency, and freedom to size a system’s power (KW) and capacity (KWH) separately (either aspect can be added to over time). In concept, this is very similar to the Regenesys battery, but with different chemistry, and targeted at smaller systems. The first commercial installation outside Japan is starting up now — a 250 KW/ 520KWH unit at ESKOM, in South Africa.

Small Modular Biopower System

Beginning in 1999, Community Power Corp (CPC) joined with NREL and Shell Renewables to develop a new generation of small modular biopower systems (SMB), designed to replace conventional diesel generators and to free communities from dependence on diesel fuel, with its high cost and environmental damage.

CPC’s fully automated SMB system can use a variety of biomass fuels to generate electricity and thermal energy for rural communities, enterprises and social services, and usually solving a agricultural residue disposal problem at the same time. The initial prototype SMB, rated at 12 1/2 kWe, is performing well in a Philippine village, since it’s commissioning on 2 April 2001.

With support from the Calif Energy Commission, CPC is now installing a second SMB on the Hoopa Valley Indian Tribe reservation in northern California. Fueled with forest residue, the unit will supply heat and power to a greenhouse, and CO2 enriched exhaust gases will also aid plant growth.

CPC’s advanced design, downdraft gasifier with fully integrated and automatic controls, produces an extremely clean combustible gas from a variety of woody fuels. The “producer” gas is conditioned and fed into a standard internal combustion engine genset for conversion to mechanical, electrical, and thermal power. Future systems will be adapted to SOFC fuel cells, microturbines, stirling and other IC engines.

Specifications and Features
– Combined heat and power operation for rural electrification and distributed generation applications;
– Environmentally friendly, non-condensing system without scrubbers, effluents or hazardous wastes;
– Fully automatic, closed-loop control of all components including gasifier, gas conditioning and genset;
– Dispatchable power within one minute of auto-startup ? uses no diesel fuel or gasoline;
– Fuel flexible: wood pellets, coconut shells, wood chips, corn cobs, palm nut shells;
– Electrical output in blocks from 5kWe to 25kWe; 120 and 240 VAC; 50 and 60 Hz;
– Modular, transportable, no need for on-site buildings or waste water disposal, 1 day installation.

Remarkably, Community Power actually first identified a market and need, and then developed SMB as the technology to meet it, rather than the other way around. The founders were experienced in the electrification of offgrid communities using conventional renewable energy technologies (PV, wind).

To serve this large, demanding market, (over 4 million communities) CPC specified a system that was sized for the typical un-electrified community; automated to prevent reliance on unskilled operators; mobile to facilitate easy installation and relocation; able to operate without the co-mixing of any fossil fuels; modular and scalable; and perhaps most importantly, one that met stringent environmental requirements with no liquid effluents or toxic wastes.

Worldwide, millions of potential customers annually dispose of billions of tons of forest and agricultural residues through burning or dumping, generating both air pollution and green house gases. Where these consumers have a sustainable source of biomass residue and where fossil fuel is either very expensive or not readily available, the SMB can be the lowest cost and greenest solution.

(A point that’s often missed in thinking about 3rd world village power– a large fraction of these communities do have currency, and already spend too much of it on energy, as currently their only choices are diesel or lead-acid batteries carried to distant charging stations–both of which are expensive and dirty. These communities can afford, and will welcome, to pay for a cheaper better local source of power.)

The company website has a great deal more information:

A recent slide presentation can be found at:

Contact: Robb R. Walt
rwalt@gocpc.com 303- 933-3135
Community Power Corp., Littleton, Co

There was a recent article in the Far Eastern Economic Review regarding CPC and the use of coconuts as fuel for their small modular bipower system that has been installed in the village of Alaminos in the Phillipines.

( 1 Aug email from Walt Robb, one of the founders)

Big news: Due to our efforts, by the end of September the DOE and US Forest Service will provide CPC with a non-competitive “Phase 3” add-on to our current SMB contract. The add-on will total $3.2 million over 2 1/2 years. We must secure $1.2 million of the $3.2 as cost share (38%). The cost share can come from multiple sources. Already, we have been contacted/visited by firms interested in the possibility of leveraging these funds.
Other news:
1. We have won two SBIR’s
2. California Energy Commission has specifically stated they are ready to give us a significant add-on to scale-up our SMB platform to 50 kW and conduct many more demos in California
3. The US Army has expressed interest in our 25kW SMB and 5 kW micro-modular biomass hybrid power system for their “Zero Foot Print Camp” program
4. A Massachusetts company has proposed a $350,000 demo in the state with state funding
5. The new trailer-mounted SMB for Hoopa is exceeding all of our expectations.
6. Art is back from vacation at Deep Creek Lake and didn’t catch any fish.