Universal Energy's technologies generate a lot of energy, but the driving mindset behind their deployment is their ability to cooperate by design. Of the many ways they can do so, none are greater than their ability to leverage the waste energy of one technology to help power the functions of another. This concept by itself isn't especially new - the idea is commonly referred to as "cogeneration" or "Combined Heat and Power." But it hasn't been a central component of past power plant design, and has only started to gain prominence relatively recently.
By and large, our current power infrastructure is just “there,” decentralized, ad-hoc systems that are custom-designed and built to order. They don’t work together. They barely talk to each other. They use non-standardized components and non-standardized fuels. Just as importantly: the energy they generate is usually only used for electricity; any excess is usually written off as “waste” heat instead of utilized for auxiliary functions.
This is a squandered opportunity on a monumental scale.
Most power plants today have an efficiency of around 33%. This means 67% of their generated energy is wasted, usually in the form of heat that either dissipates into the surrounding air or is absorbed into the ground. That’s an enormous loss of energy – more than twice the energy used to generate electricity in the first place. If we’re going to build an advanced and clean energy future, we must improve the efficiency and utility of our power infrastructure over the long-term.
The problem? Entropy and thermal loss are unavoidable byproducts of energy transfer – which means we’re probably never going to be able to build power plants that operate at superb levels of efficiency. However, Universal Energy is geared to harness waste energy to power auxiliary functions at low additional cost. This enables us to maximize their utility from the design stage and advance our power-generating capabilities through new, out-of-the-box methods.
This builds off some of the novel approaches being taken by pioneers in today's energy industry:
One notable example above is the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s REopt™ model (Renewable Energy Integration & Optimization), which is designed to identify renewable and/or efficient energy opportunities within various technologies, energy requirements and constraints. One of their flagship projects in Arizona involved the optimized integration of a nuclear reactor with renewables to efficiently desalinate seawater into hydrogen. Another example is China’s TSMR project in Gansu province. Their cogenerative deployment leverages up to 100 megawatts of clean energy to power resource-producing systems within fresh water, hydrogen fuel and chemical hydrocarbons.
But cogeneration today – even if applied from the design stage – still reflects the same foundational shortcomings of our current approach to power generation. Each effort looks for practical – yet piecemeal – improvements within unique, ad-hoc systems that are designed and implemented as such. Translation? Even if NREL’s REopt engineers retain the best tools and brightest minds in the world, everything they do in one case will have to be completely re-done from scratch in another because the technology deployment is designed and built to order.
By leveraging next generation manufacturing capabilities to mass-produce identical power-generating systems that are modular and standardized, Universal Energy seeks to promote an energy mindset that’s cogeneration-first.
This means energy technologies are designed first – from blueprint to integration – to work cooperatively with others on a modular standard. That, then, makes the framework scalable because identical power modules can be extended, integrated and/or swapped on-demand.
This helps change the fundamentals of the energy question from "how can we identify individual efficiency improvements within unique power-generating systems" to questions both more practical and expansive in vision.
For example, let’s say we were to ponder the following tasks:
- What would be required to build a power facility in mid-coastal California that generates 300 megawatts of electricity, desalinates 40 million gallons of seawater and produces two metric tons of hydrogen per day?
- With that known, how easily could we upgrade that facility’s desalination capacity to 60 million gallons, add on another 1⁄2 ton of hydrogen production and 100 megawatts more electricity?
- In case the upgrades in task #2 exceed an allocated budget, what deliverables would respectively meet 35% and 75% of this target?
- How much land would this require at what size of building envelope and what terrain limitations would apply?
- All aspects considered, what’s the overnight cost of these deployments with a high degree of certainty – plus or minus no more than 5% - all regulatory and permitting aspects considered?
In a world where energy systems are unique and made to order, the presence of these very questions sustains the business models of global consulting conglomerates.
Yet in a world where performance specifications and capabilities of modular, mass-produced systems are known clearly, and their deployments both integrate and scale with others by design, answering these questions becomes far easier.
The unknowns are removed from the equation because each energy system is model-identical in similar application to a D-cell battery – and can couple, swap or decouple from others just like the very same. Everything from power requirements and capabilities to product lifetime and physical footprint can be granulized in database tables that could be used to generate configurable reports with the click of a mouse.
While the complexities of the engineering aspects of each system of course remain, they’re also contained within the module. They do not permeate into the module’s operational capabilities, performance metrics and connection interfaces. Nor do they need to. Few of us know how to design and build a light bulb, battery, USB hard drive or computer monitor, for instance. We simply know how it’s supposed to work and how to replace it if it doesn’t. And, if we want a second one, simply get a second one and plug it in.
This is how the world of technology works in nearly every commercial sector. A rare exception is power-generation. The time has come for that to change.