Waste Heat to Power

There is a lot of interest in recovering waste heat. Combined Heat and Power (CHP) is at the heart of a large part of the distributed generation business. The heat can be used to heat water, provide process heat, and even cooling. Converting waste heat to electric power is getting attention as well.

On the bleeding edge, there are a number of efforts underway to do it without moving parts–solid state conversion (of course not limited to waste heat). There are programs, for example to put thermoelectric converters on the exhaust manifold of diesel trucks, with the goal of replacing the alternator. Thermoelectrics, thermionics, thermophotovoltaics — all are being pursued with renewed vigor, in the hope that new physics can overcome the longstanding problem of high cost and very low efficiency…a subject for another day.

Waste heat gets wasted only because it tends to be hard to use. A diesel engine converts about 1/3 of the fuel energy to useful work (electric power, in the case of a genset) — the rest goes off as waste heat in cooling water and exhaust — unless a cost-effective means can be found to use it, as in CHP.

Making more electric power with the waste heat is another matter. The age-old Rankine cycle, the basis of all steam power plants, can be made to work at lower temperatures by using something other than water as the working fluid ("refrigerant"), typically an organic compound, thus the term "organic rankine cycle" (ORC). In effect, this is a heat pump or refrigerator running backwards. Instead of using mechanical energy to create a temperature difference, mechanical energy is produced by a temperature difference.

The main challenge isn’t the theory, it’s the practical difficulty of doing it. Factors such as temperatures (inlet and outlet), flow rates, size and type of heat exchangers, type of expander, materials, controls, etc. must be considered in the trade-offs of cost, performance, reliability and longevity.

It’s a lot harder than it looks. Despite many attempts, and the obviousness of the basic idea, there are actually not very many commercial providers of such systems, particularly in smaller sizes which can operate effectively at lower waste heat temperatures.

UTC, for example, announced it’s new "PureCycle" 200 kW unit only last Fall. It requires inlet temperatures above 500 deg F.

Ormat, (ORA-NYSE) long established ORC maker for geothermal plants, is moving into the industrial waste heat market. They too need relatively high temperature, for units in the 250kw – MW range. They also sell small standalone ORC-based generators which burn a fuel as the external heat source.

In Europe, one can find Turboden (Italy), Triogen (Netherlands) and FreePower (UK). All require high temperature, with the possible exception of FreePower, who say they can operate as low as 230 deg F.

High temperature means industrial processes that put out high temperature waste heat. Ormat, for example, has a 1.5 MW showcase unit that takes air at 520 deg F from a cement plant in Germany.

The water jacket of the lowly diesel engine, however, can only be allowed to go to around 230 deg F (and the water must be returned no cooler than around 215 deg F). While such temperatures can be readily adapted to CHP uses, power conversion is more difficult.

Cooler Power, Inc, a startup in California, has successfully built units that work in this range. The engine’s cooling water is taken (before it goes to the engine’s own radiator), and is fed to a heat exchanger where it is heated further by the engine exhaust. In another heat exchanger, the hot water heats and vaporizes the organic working fluid, which then drives the expander which turns the generator. The expander is key. In principle, any compressor technology can work backwards to act as an expander: scroll, screw, turbine, or piston. All have been used at one time or another. Cooler Power initially used a scroll, but then developed its own proprietary modification to a commercially available screw compressor, as the heart of the system. They have a patent in final review stages covering the modification and use of the screw expander, as well as the control system and choice of working fluid.

Cooler Power has proprietary software to develop process flow diagrams to size and specify components or installations. The proprietary Program Logic Control (PLC) circuits are designed for optimal failsafe performance and contain algorithms that are protected from reverse engineering. Each of the key components (heat exchangers, expanders, condensers, generators) are designed to last 20+ years and come from one or more sub-sectors of the existing industrial equipment industry.

The system can be scaled to fit applications ranging from 50 kW – 1 MW. Installed costs are in the range of $1500-1800/kW. Depending on the sales price for power, payback can happen in 2 years or less. It’s important to emphasize that this is green power, which usually enjoys premium pricing. There is no fuel cost; operating costs are very low; and there are also (monetizable) environmental benefits.

A showcase 50 KW beta unit was installed in 1992 at the Newby Island landfill site in Milpitas, CA, on a 1 MW engine. A new 150 kW system will come on line in March. The company anticipates installing 10 units in 2005, with rapid growth thereafter based on already-established customer and marketing relationships, selling both systems and power. They raising an equity investment round currently, and welcome both investor and customer interest.

Ray Smith, COO
Cooler Power Inc,
Redwood City, CA
650-482-4905, rsmith@coolerpower.com


Modeling the Grid — Breakthrough

To start the new year off with a bang, I may be going out on a limb here, but I don’t think so. I hope you’ll take a close look at this….

DOE, EPRI and the entire power industry is abuzz with talk about how the grid can be operated better. The grand vision comes up hard against the incredibly difficult problem of modeling. For many decades, the best mathematicians, operations researchers, utility engineers and others have struggled to come up with (computerized) representations of the grid that can guide planners and operators.

Since the beginning, despite ever faster-cheaper computers, and tremendous innovations in algorithms and computational methods, the state of the art has been forced to make many bad compromises among such factors as speed, accuracy, detail, breadth, time domain, treatment of boundary effects, and applications. Unless corners are cut, a solution might not be found at all (i.e. converge). Areas of study and tools are stove-piped into many separate categories of time-scale and function:

– Real time (sec. to minutes)
optimal power flow, voltage and frequency control, contingency analysis

– Short term (hours to a week)
unit commitment, thermal-hydro coordination

– Annual ( 1-3 years)
maintenance scheduling, rate-design, production costing, hydro scheduling…

– Long term (3-40 years)
generations expansion, transmission planning, etc.

(see "A Primer on Electric Power Flow for Economists and Utility Planners" EPRI TR-104604, Feb 1995.)

To make things worse, the industry is highly fragmented and way behind the curve. Utilities don’t have the same cadre of experts in-house that they used to. Vendors sell "black-box" solutions that don’t live up to promises. Obsolete tools continue to be used because "everybody else uses them" and "regulators accept them". (Never mind the results may be worthless.) A guru of power flow analysis, now retired, told me that much of the industry isn’t even using more powerful real time analysis tools that are over 25 years old.

So there are major institutional problems and technical ones, and the two are intertwined. Not only is the problem fiendishly hard, but lot of people also have vested interests in the status quo (e.g., experts have devoted entire careers, and don’t look kindly at upstart claims of a breakthrough–just as in every field of human endeavor).


This is a long prologue to a story of just such a claimed breakthrough. Optimal Technologies appeared on the scene late in 2001, announcing they had analyzed the June 14, 2000 California blackout, and stating they could have prevented it by fine-tuning the grid according to results from their analysis tool, AEMPFAST.

Needless to say, the world was not especially open to the idea that a newcomer had succeeded in coming up with a methodology that did what so many had sought for so long:

"AEMPFAST is based on a new near-real-time (solves a several thousand bus system in milliseconds) mathematical approach to network analysis, optimization, ranking, and prediction called QuixFlow … a proprietary N-Dimensional (non-linear) analysis, optimization, and ranking engine that also has defendable predictive capabilities and is applicable to any problem that can be modeled as a network. … QuixFlow uses no approximations; it handles multiple objectives; and is able to enforce multi-objective inequality constraints." [from factsheet – see link below]

I have been closely following the company’s progress since then. Their revolutionary claims are finally beginning to overcome the natural skepticism and resistance. At least one major ISO/RTO is signing up, and DOE and a number of large utilities are taking it very seriously. The implications are, as Donald Trump would say, "huge".
Here is an introduction in the company’s own words:

Optimal Technologies is a private company focused on making power-grid systems more efficient, more reliable, and more cost effective to plan and operate. In other words, "smarter". Think of Optimal as the Internet for power grids [or Sonet for telecommunications] self-healing, self-enabling, lowest cost operation with highest reliability.

Problem: Power system infrastructures and the grid networks that support them are breaking down faster than solutions can be developed to address the underlying problems.

Because of inadequate core technologies and especially slow and limited mathematical tools, the utility industry is plagued with many tools based on algorithms that no longer work well for their intended tasks and that do not work well together. Last year’s blackout that effected more than 50 million people should help provide some context. Despite new advances in materials and hardware, blackouts and brownouts are becoming larger and more common because utility system planning and control methods are still in the horse and buggy era — done much as they were 50 years ago — fragmented and piecemealed. In other words, even though system peripherals (such as wind energy, distributed gas generation, fuel cell generators, meters, and demand-side management) are improving, the core grid Operating System that makes them all work well together doesn’t exist.

New Technology: Our software and hardware solutions are based on a revolutionary new mathematical approach to network analysis, optimization, and management. Our technology is far better than current approaches to understanding and managing networks, and allows for both local and integrated, end-to-end views of Generation, Transmission, Distribution and Load. Unlike competing products, our technology can view the complete energy delivery supply chain as an integrated asset, which allows for entirely new levels of risk review and risk management — previously not possible. Optimal’s new technology should be viewed as "Foundational" in that it has pervasive application within the power industry and provides a common framework for many new tools.

Optimal’s Solution: Think of us as the much needed underlying "operating system engine" that integrates, defragments, and prioritizes utility planning, operations, and business processes in the best controllable and defendable way. Our technologies have the ability to simultaneously analyze, optimize, and manage generation, transmission, distribution and customer load Ð down to the individual power line and building. Instead of viewing customer load as a problem, our technology has the ability to make all aspects of the system, including customer load, potential risk-reducing resources [i.e. reliability enhancers] not otherwise possible.

Products: Applications include: Congestion Management, Locational Marginal Pricing, Simultaneous Transfer Limits, Multi-Dimensional Reliability, Automated Network Planning, Emergency Control, System Restoration, and Smart Asset Management.

Beyond the scope of this note, Optimal also has a suite of software and hardware for the demand side, which enables measurement and control — and optimization — down to individual loads.
There is a great deal of information on the company’s website:

Roland Schoettle, CEO
Optimal Technologies International Inc.
rolands@otii.com 707 557-1788

AEMPFAST FACTSHEET (good starting point)



15 Oct 2004 UFTO Note – Superconducting Fault Current Limiter
07 Oct 2004 UFTO Update – Ultrapurification of Oil
13 Sep 2004 UFTO Note – True Plug&Play for Energy Advances
26 Aug 2004 UFTO Update – Sag Line Mitigator is Ready
01 Jun 2004 UFTO Note – Openshark Coordinates Digging Streets
05 May 2004 UFTO Note – EEStor Ultracapacitor and Ultrabattery
05 Mar 2004 UFTO Note – DG Update
03 Feb 2004 UFTO Note – Calif Treasurer Proposes Green Wave to Invest $1.5B in Cleantech
23 Jan 2004 UFTO Note – Plug Pulled on Regenesys
06 Jan 2004 UFTO Note – Gas-to-Liquid: Its Time Has Come

Superconducting Fault Current Limiter

Australians quietly develop something completely different.

A "fault" in a transmission or distribution circuit is nasty business. Circuit breakers open up, and that not only interrupts service to a lot of customers, it can also put a surge on the system. Worse, most fault clear themselves almost immediately, and then a decision has to be made, either by a person or by the equipment, whether and when to reclose the breaker. This is rough on the system, and the breakers themselves are expensive and hard to maintain.

A Fault Current Limiter (FCL) is a subtler way of dealing with momentary faults. It recognizes a sudden high current that’s not supposed to happen; it "inserts" a high impedance in the line momentarily to block that current, and returns to normal once the situation corrects itself. This is not an easy task, however. Currently (no pun), FCLs are far from ideal. Air core reactors using metallic copper conductors incur high operational losses, have limited response time, and wear out easily. What’s more, the breakers usually trip anyhow.

It’s long been recognized that FCLs are a great application for high temperature superconductors (HTSC). In fact, it’s seen as the first and best application of HTSCs on the power system. The basic idea is to put a superconducting element in the circuit in such a way that if too high a current comes along, the element goes "normal" or momentarily stops being a superconductor. This supplies the temporary high impedance to limit the current, and once the current drops, the superconductor goes back to being a superconductor and lets the current can flow again. This happens almost instantaneously, faster than a mechanical switch, and with "softer" transitions.

A SC FCL could thus detect abnormally high current transients in the grid, e.g. from lightning strikes, in a fraction of a cycle, and control the fault current so that system equipment can absorb it safely, protecting valuable downstream infrastructure.

Superconductors go "normal" if the temperature gets too high, or if the magnetic field gets too high. A SC FCL relies on the latter type of "quenching". The base current passing through the device produces a magnetic field below the level that would turn off the SC — a fault current will increase the magnetic field enough to do the trick.

SC FCLs are the subject of intense R&D efforts worldwide. ABB installed a prototype at a substation in Switzerland in 1997. The DOE is funding a new $12M program (http://www.engineeringtalk.com/news/nex/nex111.html), and EPRI is offering a major study (http://www.epri.com/destinations/product.aspx?id=439&area=10&type=2).

A conference earlier this month presented the very latest on SC, including power applications. Note the three FCL sessions. Applied Superconductivity Conf, ASC 2004, Jacksonville, FL, October 3-8, 2004

Essentially all these efforts to date are using the bulk property of SC, and involve putting the entire load current through the SC itself, as described above. This leads to designs that are highly complex and which require a lot of SC material (i.e. very expensive wire or tape – which is proving difficult to make in large quantities). Moreover, none have progressed beyond the R&D stage and or early field beta trials. (Note – in most designs, a shunt actually supplies the impedance, not the quenched SC element, — even more complicated.)

Meanwhile, Down Under!

Meanwhile, a quiet development program in Australia has come up with a novel approach which has already been successfully demonstrated, and which is coming to North America. They developed their own SC tape and SC coils (and manufacturing method), and they invented and patented a 3-phase FCL that works in an entirely different way. It is actually more of a "controller" than a limiter of fault current.

It is a HTSC-enabled saturated magnetic core inductor. The load current passes through a copper coil on one side of a laminated-steel core. A DC coil on the other side maintains the core in a fully saturated state of magnetization. The number of copper turns are set so that a fault current in the AC coil will drive the iron core out of saturation (on the negative swing of the waveform). The coil then presents a large current controlled reactance, clipping the fault current at the design value.

All of this is explained in detail in a white paper presented in 2003, and which is available on request. Download 3.5 MB — (password required)
The design uses only a small amount of superconductor, simply to maintain the core magnetization (the only reason you need SC for this is that ordinary coils would be too big and lossy). More important, it works; it’s simple, robust, and versatile; and it will be available in a year at a reasonable price point. Key advantages include:

Superior Fault Condition Performance
– Very fast response time – protection functions activate in a fraction of a cycle.
– Large dynamic range – accommodates overloads without degradation and recovers instantly.
– Superior dynamic performance – suppresses initial transients more fully with much shorter decay times.
– Self-triggering/self-governing – operates instantly because of fundamental physical laws, no external sensing or controls required.

Low Cost
– Low operational cost – very little electrical losses in standby mode.
– High durability – very low cycle fatigue – operates through multiple operating cycles or fault events with little or no degradation.

– Expandable architecture – can be field or shop reconfigured to meet future requirements or changing grid characteristics.
– Small footprint and flexible form factor – compact to fit within space constraints and can be configured differently for local requirements.

Positive Grid Impact
– Improved grid reliability – clips fault currents completely without de-energizing the downstream grid.
– Transparency to the grid – no discernable impact during standby.

The technology has undergone substantial simulation, prototyping, and testing. The company sees no significant technical barriers and is on target to begin low-volume manufacturing and field installations of three-phase commercial units within 12 months.
The Australian company was recently acquired as a subsidiary of SC Power Systems, a US company, and operations have been moved to the US. They’ve already engaged in substantive dialogue with potential early customers and have validated the demand for its first three-phase units (15KV, nominally 10KAmps/phase).

They’ve contracted with NEETRAC (see UFTO Note 17Jan02) to prepare test procedures compatible with IEEE standards. NEETRAC member utilities are lining up to be the hosts for utility field tests scheduled for Q4, 2005. The company welcomes the opportunity to explore application needs, and will be taking orders as early as 2005.


Woody Gibson, 415-277-0179 gibson@scpowersystems.com
SC Power Systems, Inc.
San Francisco, CA
Website: www.superconductors.com.au

The company is also raising equity funding. They presented at the NREL Industry Growth Forum, Oct. 18-20 in Orlando http://www.cleanenergyforum.com/. A business plan is available from the company.

Ultrapurification of Oil

You may recall seeing this before. UFTO has introduced it up a couple of times in the past, the last time in an UFTO Note, 5 Mar 2001. The company has a new name- ISOPur Fluid Technologies. It now has backing from major VCs, new top management, and it’s proving itself in the marketplace. While a bit slower on the uptake compared with some other industries, utilities are increasingly interested in the dramatic O&M savings this technology can demonstrate, in a wide array of applications.

The Technology

ISOPur Fluid Technologies has a unique patented technology, known as Balanced Charge Agglomeration (BCA) that filters oil and other non-conducting fluid to levels not achieved by conventional filtration. Most oil filters found in automobiles, power plants, and the like can remove particles as small as 3-10 microns. However, half of the mass of debris and other contamination in the oil is in particles of 1 micron or less. ISOPur splits the oil flow into two parallel paths, and uses high voltage electrodes to ionize the contamination particles, half positive and half negative, thus the "balanced charge." The two paths are combined and the oppositely charged particles are attracted to each other and "agglomerate" to form larger particles which can then be removed by conventional filtration.

Not only is the oil made "cleaner than new", but the process actually removes particles and varnish from the inner workings of machinery, dramatically extending service intervals and equipment life.

Customer benefits in actual applications:

— Reduced equipment downtime – scheduled and unscheduled, e.g. reduced failures of hydraulic actuators in pulp and paper mills.

— Reduced maintenance and repair costs, e.g. extended time between overhauls for gas turbines.

— Improved recycling of used oil, e.g. reprocessing and reuse of waste vegetable oil in the production of bio-diesel fuel.

— The cost of periodically replacing old fluids with new, e.g. reduced frequency of changing oil in the cabs of windmills, thus reducing transport of oil and waste oil to and from remote locations and in structures hundreds of feet in the air.

— Extended equipment life, e.g. near elimination of coking and reduced wear in utility tap-changers.

The ISOPur technology can also reduce diesel fuel emissions such as heavy metals, ash and other harmful particulate by removing these elements at the fuel source before the fuel is combusted. The ISOPur units also will remove bacteria from fuels, thereby preserving the quality of fuels that are stored for extended periods.

Fortune 500 customers include Pfizer, Wheelabrator Corp., Eaton Corp, and alliances are underway with others spanning a wide range of market applications – from oil recycling to on-board vehicle systems to commercial cooking equipment.

Utility Experience The company is ready for a push with the utility industry. Initial experience is highly encouraging. A major southern US utility has tested the process on its Frame 7 turbines. Another Frame 7 owner in Asia is reporting that ISOPur does much better in a direct comparison with the nearest competitor (Kleen Tek). Several other utilities are placing orders for a variety of applications, and a major vendor of lube skids has entered into an OEM agreement. (Note that ISOPur can be used to enhance the performance of existing filtration systems.)

In Italy, ENEL ran tests in the lubricating oil treatment and control for a feed turbo-pump. They report, "we can state that the ISOPUR MAG 600CE oil treatment machine was shown to be effective and suitable for using in [this] machinery… Oil treatment … was found to be more effective than with the presently used traditional systems. The solid particulate present in the oil was drastically reduced and constant viscosity was thus maintained. No deterioration in additives present in the oil was noted." (report is on the website).

The company website has a great deal of information about the technology, economics, and the many applications, and success stories.
ISOPur Fluid Technologies, Inc. Rocky Hill, CT
Chris Sakorafos, V.P. of Marketing and Sales
860-571-8590 x231 csakorafos@isopurfluid.com

Robert P. Musselman, CEO
PS: The company is in the midst of a late-stage round of fundraising, and will be presenting at the Cleantech Venture Forum V in Toronto, October 25-27. (contact the CEO).

True Plug and Play for Energy Advances

We’ve been working with a startup company that’s come up with plans for a box that will streamline the installation and use of new energy technology. They have designs, have applied for a patent, and are already getting strong interest from residential developers as their first market entry point. The company is seeking strategic partners and capital. Here, in their own words, is the basic idea.

PPSI’s Modular Energy and Services Appliance (MESA) is a revolutionary device that finally launches the home or business into the modern power age. Imagine a cabinet installed at the home or business that replaces the electric meter and service entry panel with smart technology that immediately reduces energy costs and enables further savings opportunities, by providing for safe and easy operation and clean installation of one or more of emerging energy technologies: solar power, wind power, back-up battery, generator or fuel cell.

PPSI Overview

Many existing, new and emerging energy related technologies are available or soon will be available for home and small business users. All experts agree this already large market is going to experience significant growth in the coming decade. Yet, while many consumers desire these products for cost saving or other personal reasons, to date "something" has been holding them back. The missing "something" is a common integration platform to reduce the many risks faced by the consumer. To address this need, PPSI has created the Modular Energy and Services Appliance or MESA.

The MESA approach allows any desired energy related device to be installed simply and easily in its expansion cabinet via PPSI’s proprietary interconnection and mounting technology.

Built-in devices:
    Power conditioning (saves energy and money)
    Peak Power usage monitoring

Expansion devices:
    Backup Power
    Solar/Wind integration
    Batteries (Time Shifting of Power Usage)
    Power Resale
    Vehicle Refueling

The MESA significantly reduces consumer risks including:

1.    Cost
2.    Selection
3.    Integration
4.    Support
5.    Obsolescence

Additionally the MESA provides a go-to-market platform for the makers of energy related devices, which allows them to focus on their core strengths and leave the marketing, sales, distribution and support issues to PPSI.

The current situation is reminiscent of the early days of the personal computer industry where the components existed but large numbers of usable systems did not ship until Apple and IBM took up the integration challenge to create a functional and easily accessible platform.

The initial MESA distributors are expected to be leading real estate developers. Why?

– faster time to market
– more desirable homes
– regulation/permitting process favors alternative energy technologies
– current, strong need

Follow-on markets potentially include solar/wind installations, utilities, home remodelers and business facility upgrades.

The PPSI MESA can accelerate the upcoming energy market growth and control a large portion of the market due to its unique integration capabilities and PPSI’s focus on owning the space between the customers and component manufacturers.
Jeff Adams
Peninsula Power Systems

Sag Line Mitigator is Ready

We’ve been following SLiM for a long time (see below), and it’s a proud moment now to see this program come to the point of actual commercialization.  Industry testing has been extensive and very successful.

They are ready to take orders.  Delivery in small quantities can be fairly prompt, and they are in the process of raising funds to ramp up production (investor inquiries welcome).

Here’s the text from the new brochure, from the newly incorporated company, Power Transmission Solutions, Inc. (PTS)  (Until the website is up, let me know if you’d like me to send you the pdf of the brochure.)

The Sagging Line Mitigator (SLiM) is a new class of transmission line hardware that fixes the sagging problem of transmission lines at just the right time. By using state-of-the-art materials and a proven and patented concept, SLiM reacts to increasing conductor temperature by decreasing the effective length of conductor in the span. The impact is a decrease in line sag during the high temperature and/or high loading conditions.

 — SLiM solves sag problems rather than just monitoring them
 — SLiM allows for increased power flow and avoids clearance issues
 — SLiM is maintenance free
 — SLiM is fail-safe and practically indestructible

SLiM was originally developed by Material Integrity Solution, Inc. (MIS), of Berkeley, CA with funding from California Energy Commission. It has been extensively studied and tested by MIS, PG&E, Hydro Quebec (IREQ) and Kinectrics. SLiM has been installed at San Diego G&E since May of 2004 as part of a Tailored Collaboration demonstration project with the EPRI on behalf of SDGE, PG&E, SCE, PSNM, ConEd, BC Hydro, National Grid Transco (UK), Northeast Utilities, and the California Energy Commission.

SLiM is distributed by Maurice Pincoffs. To order the device, to determine how SLiM device can solve your specific sag problem, to design optimum SLiM location(s) for your specific situation, or , just for more information please contact:
  Dariush Shirmohammadi (PTS) at 310.858.1174,  d.shir@PTranSolutions.com

or George Rose (Pincoffs) at 713.681.5461,  glr@pincoffs.com

   Power Transmission Solutions, Inc.
   Berkeley, CA   510-594-0302

UFTO’s long history with SLiM:
– Oct 2002:  UFTO Note – Short Subjects
– Mar 2000: UFTO Note – Sag Line Mitigator -UPDATE
– Jun 1999: UFTO Note – T Line Sag Mitigator Gets Funding; Partner Wanted
– Mar 1999: UFTO Note – Sagging Line Mitigator

Openshark Coordinates Digging Streets

You may share my pet peeve — the waste and inconvenience, not to mention bumpy roads, when a street is cut open within months after being freshly repaved, because municipalities and numerous utilities have no way to coordinate projects.

A new product offers to solve that problem which enables such coordination, and thus saves capital budgets, saves time, reduces costs, and improves relationships–especially with customers.

A pilot project is underway in Southern California. It is currently up and running in one city and has plans to be expanded to two larger cities in California. A pilot is also planned for a larger suburban city in the eastern US, for later this year. All of the public and private utilities that serve these cities are involved in the respective pilots.

(The following is straight from the company’s website and other materials–addressing "you" the utility):

Openshark LF  provides a standardized information exchange platform for utilities and municipalities. LF prompts you to view below ground construction as a single process across utilities and municipalities rather than a series of separate processes conducted by a number of different organizations. LF is a collaborative solution and gives you the visibility, velocity and innovation you need to a foster interaction, communication, process alignment and cost savings. LF allows you to share your construction plans and planning documentation with your peers in a secure environment. You ‘upload’ your files in their native format. Openshark applications will seamlessly translate this information into a ‘platform independent’ format – or the original file can be shared with any authorized participant. LF provides you a cost efficient methodology to collaborate with other utility service providers and municipalities in your service territory.

Coordinating Construction Projects in the Public Right of Way

Openshark LF is a complete solution for managing the construction coordination interface between utilities and municipalities. It is a “Best-of-Class” solution that applies a consensus built, ANSI standard, project planning process to utility construction coordination. This internet-based tool provides a sophisticated document management system that enables you to securely share documents and allows your collaborators to view these documents in their internet browser (such as Explorer or Communicator) regardless of the original format of the file. Openshark LF automates the construction planning process, effortlessly interconnecting regional infrastructure management stakeholders. This new interconnectivity provides you advanced notice of ‘foreign’ construction, enabling you to either mitigate the impact of these activities on your infrastructure, or to relocate your infrastructure – often at a cost savings.

Right from the start, Openshark LF allows you to:

Identify construction partnership opportunities that can reduce below ground infrastructure construction costs by up to 50%;

Employ ANSI standard project management methodology to improve construction planning business processes – mitigating the risk inherent in interdependent projects;

Document compliance with the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002 by adopting best practices in construction coordination;

Generate advanced notification of project opportunities to other regional infrastructure management stakeholders and, keep these subscribed stakeholders up -to-date with automated notification of changes in your current projects;

Dramatically reduce expenses associated with construction coordination – meeting attendance and travel. And, improve the content and operational benefits of the coordination meeting that your employees decide to attend.

Improve communication and increase security. Openshark LF’s access control and password protection ensures that documents will only be read by those that are intended to see them.

Enjoy greater efficiency. You will save time for every planning, engineering and construction team member in your organization, as well as leverage your team resources and put them to their best use.

Reduce delays and delay-related costs.
By streamlining and automating communications within and between organizations, Openshark LF reduces the delays normally associated with coordinating construction projects. From notification to engineering drawings, from proposed routes to project schedules, Openshark LF gets the right information to the right people at the right time. The result: more lead time, the ability to implement the most cost effective options, the ability to form cost-saving partnerships, concurrent engineering, faster project completion and reduced project costs.

An Ideal Document Management Solution
Openshark’s online document management features offer a fast and powerful way to mobilize cross-organizational project teams. Whether you’re working in the same town or in different regions, with Openshark LF you can setup and begin collaborating and sharing documents on new projects within minutes.

Mitigate the risk of a networked project.
Openshark LF’s built-in project management process, which is based on an ANSI standard, provide you with comprehensive set of communication features – overcoming the single largest threat to project success – poor communication. Project plans, documents, broadcasted or targeted communication can be routed to all team members, with automatic notification to those who need to respond quickly.

Establish best practices across the entire project team.
It’s not easy to get team members, who may be distributed across different organizations and in different locations, to cooperate. But Openshark LF provides a ready-to-use solution for managing networked and collaborative planning processes that lets you standardize on industry best practices across your entire team. When everyone follows the same rules about the distribution of information, you increase productivity and reduce project management costs.

Get all users up and running fast
Openshark LF offers a comfortable and familiar interface through a web browser for easy access anywhere, anytime. The result: users can be up and running with a minimum amount of training. Implementation consulting ensures rapid adoption across the entire network of organizations and a rapid recovery of your investment in business process management. Openshark Software is deployed as fully a managed web service and has been designed from the ground up using industry standards, and incorporates robust technology from Microsoft.

Openshark LF was developed at a company doing email software, so the utility business will spin off at some point.  They want to do more pilots, and eventually will be looking for capital and/or an appropriate firm to acquire them.


Robert Meade
San Jose, CA
408-392-0979 x107             meade@openshark.com

PS- Ever alert to new opportunities, I met Bob at my daughter’s sailing club– he is a fellow parent supporter.  You never know where new things will turn up.