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Turning Waste Heat into Power: Ener-G-Rotors and the Entrepreneurial Mentorship Program

March 16, 2011 - 4:55pm


Ener-G-Rotors' 5kW prototype system | courtesy of Ener-G-Rotors

Ener-G-Rotors' 5kW prototype system | courtesy of Ener-G-Rotors

If you’ve ever driven by an industrial plant, you’ve probably noticed big white plumes rising from the tops of the facilities. While it might look like smoke or pollution at first glance, most of the time those white plumes are comprised of steam and heat, or what Ener-G-Rotors CEO Michael Newell calls waste heat.

Mike and the researchers of Ener-G-Rotors are finding ways to use this escaped steam and turn it into energy. The company, founded in 2004, began like most startups -- with an innovator’s idea.

Ener-G-Rotor’s Chief Technologist George Yarr invented the company’s patented technology in the late 1990s. The company’s product -- a machine known as the “GEN4 System” -- is a 40kW-60kW appliance that transforms low grade heat into electricity, enabling customers to reduce energy waste and their carbon footprint.

The technology uses an Organic Rankine Cycle system coupled with a modified gerotor running as an expander to convert heat in the form of low temperature hot water or steam (below 400 degrees F) into electricity. The waste heat stream is diverted through a “hot heat exchanger” inside the system. A cooling stream is simultaneously diverted through the “cold heat exchanger,” and the electrical connection is made at a nearby panel or box. The electricity that is generated is then returned to the client’s electricity grid. Ener-G-Rotor’s innovation is the first technology that is able to perform the conversion economically on a small scale.

To help the small company of five get to the next stage of development, Ener-G-Rotors is taking part in the “Entrepreneurial Mentor Corps,” a one-year pilot program to connect clean energy startups with mentors who can help support these companies through early-stage challenges and increase their chance for success. The program is a partnership of the Department of Energy and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and targets clean energy small businesses who have previously received financial assistance from the Department through the Recovery Act. 

Mike says that although he has worked with several startup companies before coming on board with Ener-G-Rotors in 2008, this is his first foray into the energy sector. He says he and the company are excited to be matched with a mentor who he hopes can give an unbiased perspective as a strategist from outside the company. “What we really need is someone who can help us continue to develop the contacts we need to move ahead,” he says. “That means being able to identify the right strategic partners in the clean energy industry, and helping me examine the different challenges we have moving forward.”

Michael says that he has been very satisfied with the process so far. “[The program] gives me one more opportunity to expand our network.”

And expanding they are! The company has taken their demonstration model to a plastics manufacturer as well as the Con Edison utilities plant in New York. For the last 18 months Michael says they’ve been modifying the GEN4 System so that it is compatible for the industrial waste heat market.

For more information about Ener-G-Rotors and their waste heat recovery system, visit the website.