News
News Home
Quick Bites
Exploradio
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
NPR
nowplaying
On AirNewsClassical
Loading...
  
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Wayside Furniture

Akron Children's Hospital


For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )


Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us




Exploradio: New renewable energy
An innovative use of what's normally a green-house gas may become part of Ohio's renewable energy future
by WKSU's JEFF ST. CLAIR
This story is part of a special series.


Reporter / Host
Jeff St. Clair
 
Phil Brennan, Co-Founder & CEO peers through the condenser heat exchanger of the protoype of the ECHOGEN Heat Engine.
Courtesy of Echogen Power Systems
Download (WKSU Only)

Regulations of Ohio’s oil and gas industry grabbed most of the headlines in last month’s passage of sweeping new energy legislation.  But Governor Kasich didn’t visit a drilling platform for the signing ceremony; he set up his desk in the basement of a small Akron startup.

In this week’s Exploradio, we explore a new type of renewable energy in Ohio.

Exploradio: A new renewable

Other options:
MP3 Download (3:31)


(Click image for larger view.)

Akron test run

Steam from the city’s heating plant is normally used to heat buildings in downtown Akron.  But today the excess steam is piped into a crisp white box the size of a moving van parked next to the plant.  The box is Echogen’s new 250 kW waste-heat engine, on its first real test run outside the lab. The engine takes any type of waste heat, like what goes up a factory smoke stack and turns it into electricity. 

A few blocks away at Echogen’s headquarters, CEO and founder Phil Brennan believes his new waste-heat engine may even overturn the coal industry’s centuries-old reliance on steam to spin turbines. 

“Our goal ultimately is to displace steam as the power-generation fluid of choice.”

It’s an ambitious goal for technology barely off the drawing board.

Brennan started Echogen five years ago, licensing the original design from a NASA prototype. 

Super critical CO2

His new technology works through the innovative use of a common material -  CO2 .  Except in Echogen’s engine, the CO2 is pressurized and heated to the point where the gas becomes a stable liquid called super critical carbon dioxide

Carbon dioxide has been used in other applications.  In Europe it’s been used in refrigeration, and in air conditioning systems for cars in Europe because it’s a safe refrigerant.  It’s used very successfully as a heat pump in Japan.  But Brennan says his company is the first to use super critical carbon dioxide to generate electricity.

In just five years Brennan and his team took their waste heat engine from the concept phase to field testing.  But it hasn't been easy.  He says there is a bridge between theory and practice and it’s been a painful and repeated lesson for Echogen.

The engine works by flowing the super critical CO2 through a waste-heat exchanger that sits inside a smoke stack.  The CO2 heats up inside the engine, spins a turbine, and cranks out electricity.

The Valley of Death

Brennan is anxious to get his product to market - 

“We’ve been living in what the venture capitalists call the ‘Valley of Death’ for a while. The sun has been beating on us but someone has been giving us water and with just a couple of successes, the financial picture looks very different.”

One success was the new energy bill that designates waste-heat energy from smoke stacks, steel smelters, brick kilns and even diesel engines as renewable energy in Ohio, a move backed by environmentalists. 

The change allows Echogen’s potential customers not only to generate power, but to also sell renewable credits to utilities that use them to meet green-energy standards.

Still, the units aren’t cheap.  Echogen is developing a 7-megawatt engine – enough to power 3,000 homes for a year.  Brennan says it will sell for around 15 million dollars.  The potential waste heat market worldwide, he says, is in the billions. 

The governor’s visit a few weeks ago shined a spotlight on the Akron start-up, but CEO Brennan is under no illusions of guaranteed success.  He says the proof is in the pudding, "and we haven’t yet eaten it.”

But there will be plenty of people at Echogen to sample that pudding.  The company plans to double its workforce to 80 people by the end of next year.

 

I’m Jeff St.Clair with this week’s Exploradio.

Add Your Comment
Name:

Location:

E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Comments:




 
Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook





Stories with Recent Comments

Kasich's gubernatorial ad focuses on his blue-collar roots
John Kasich is the biggest con-man in America. He will say one thing and then do the opposite. He is terribly successful at fooling the public and he is worki...

Some cab drivers in Cleveland refuse to promote Gay Games
the irony is that most americans distrust or hate muslims much more than they hate gays!! silly ignorant bigots-GO HOME!!!

New transportation companies come to Cleveland
Ride-sharing companies are breaking laws and regulations every day. From regulatory fee evasion to use of smartphone while driving (and even two smartphones(!) ...

Cleveland anti-poverty agency executive resigns amid financial probe
That committee won't be too independent. He plans to stay on until after the new appointee is chosen.

How can you wipe a criminal record clean?
Great article! NO CLINIC in May 2014, however, because it's graduation month for students For the next dates of the FREE Legal Clinic to help with Expungment,...

Drilling remains suspended while ODNR investigates NE Ohio earthquakes
Flaring and lights, so has all been halted? Also, smell of HS2 and sounds of an auger/drilling/water rushing underground. So, has all been halted? In light of t...

Will the Ohio River carry fracking wastewater?
Texas $ vs. WV citizens . Who will our governor listen to?

McKinley museum launches campaign to buy 'pawned' heirloom
Was the tiara sold or pawned? What is the name of the person who brought the tiara to the Gold

Ohio Supreme Court allows Stark County sheriff on the May ballot
Too bad they never got rid of Swanson, even after national exposure of the abuses at the jail. Maybe the abuses will stop now...

Copyright © 2014 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

 
In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University