Cool Energy, a Boulder, Colo.-based energy conversion technology manufacturer, has developed a Stirling engine system that captures exhaust energy from internal combustion engines and converts it into electricity.
The company estimates more than 60 percent of energy created by engine generators is lost as wasted heat, meaning more fuel than needed is used at unnecessary cost.
Development goals of the new Stirling system, which is a modified version of the close-to-200-year-old engine, includes cutting operators’ fossil fuel use by 10 percent and reducing air pollution.
CEO Sam Weaver added that among the system’s industrial, military and commercial applications is the potential to help the telecommunications sector save 500 million gallons of diesel fuel per year.
“This week’s achievement is the culmination of six years of effort,” Weaver said, adding that the company aimed to generate carbon-free electricity from the exhaust waste heat of a diesel generator.
For the test, the company said it connected a 3-kilowatt SolarHeart engine system to a 30-kW diesel generator to produce electricity from the engine’s wasted heat.
Cool Energy found it converted heat to electricity at 22 percent efficiency, which would generate 10 percent fuel savings when applied to distributed electricity generators.
That would require 10 percent less fuel to be transported to remote locations or anywhere else diesel fuel generators are the primary source of electricity.
In a combat situation, the military could use the technology to lower the cost of certain operations and keep more soldiers out of harm’s way, the company said.
Since Weaver founded the company in 2006, Cool Energy has received around $2 million in competitive grants from the Energy Department, National Science Foundation and other agencies to support its patented waste heat recovery technology.
Investors, including Bill Gross-founded Idealab, a technology business operator, have put in more than $6 million to help develop the technology and Cool Energy is currently in an additional funding round as it looks to tap into demand from international customers and license its technology to domestic engine producers.
Cool Energy added oil-free self-lubricating pistons and heat exchangers to the Stirling engine for its system.
In its company statement, Cool Energy says it is “committed to developing systems that use renewable energy sources to provide abundant, inexpensive, carbon-free power production.”