Energy conversion chip developer Eneco announced its first commercial customer yesterday, inking an alliance with US energy systems provider Proterra Energy that will see the company deploy the chip technology at various industrial sites and power networks.
Under the terms of the partnership - which Proterra estimates will be worth in excess $2bn to the two companies over the next seven years with Eneco taking a 10 percent cut - Eneco's heat-electricity power conversion chip will be integrated with Proterra's thermal management system to help reduce carbon emissions and transform waste heat into electricity at Proterra's existing district power projects and new industrial projects in "the US, the UK and elsewhere".
The deal has also seen Proterra invest $20m in Eneco, which the company said would provide it with capital for further expansion.
Proterra provides a range of products for heating, power and cooling systems designed to reduce and clean emissions and enhance the efficiency of industrial systems such as boilers and furnaces. Eneco chief executive Lew Brown said that this capability fits in neatly with the companies new conversion chip technology. "Proterra has the skills for working on industrial sites and the technology to transport waste heat into an environment where our chips can take effect," he said.
The two companies are currently in negotiations with a steel mill in the US to deploy the new technology to generate electricity from waste heat produced by the steel furnace. "Currently Proterra works with the mill to clean the gasses coming off the furnance, but to do this the gas has to be run through a duct where water cools it down before it can be treated," he explained. "We'll replace the water jacket with our conversion technology to generate power for the plant."
Another customer is also lined up in Canada, where the company is planning to install the chips on a boiler being used to heat agricultural "hot houses", Brown said.
According to Brown, Proterra's emission neutralisation and sequestration technologies have also been used on firms' waste furnaces, offering another environment where the Eneco chips could help capture and convert waste heat into usable electricity.
However, Eneco confirmed that the chip itself is still in the "pre-manufacturing" stage and that the company is still working on resolving certain "packaging issues" surrounding how best to integrate the small chips together into an effective module.
Brown said that Proterra would begin laying the groundwork for the joint projects the companies are committed to and that the chips would be delivered by the end of 2007 to complete these projects. He insisted that Proterra was comfortable with this arrangement and confident that the chips would be delivered on time and prove effective in an industrial environment.
Brown also insisted that Eneco was looking for further partners to help take the chip to market and repeated his claims of last year that the company is poised to exploit a massive market opportunity. "It is estimated that 50 percent of the energy produced by fossil fuels is wasted through heat," he said. "I you could capture that it would be worth $1 trillion a year."
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