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.
— COMPANIES —
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.