Award Finalist: Alternative Energy Innovations brings devices to produce electricity from waste heat

Our finalists Alternative Energy Innovations not only invented one georgeous product so far. They did two. Why not? Dr. Raul Aragones, the Chairman, explains why it just makes sense to run wireless sensor networks (which they developed) on the electricity that has just been produced with their devices using industrial waste heat. And yes: There is a lot of industrial waste heat. And yes: This will have an huge impact. And yes: You can meet them at our Tech Festival. We’re looking forward!

Describe your product and its history! What is your unique value proposition and your business model?

We saw that the industry is very inefficient in the use of energy. In some sectors more than 65% of consumed energy is wasted in form of heat, which means not only lots of money lost, but also a great impact on the environment. We also knew from our research group that the industry needs to monitor its processes and that the main problem is to feed those sensors at low cost. The solution was clear for us; the use of thermoelectricity allows us to recover part of the wasted heat, sustainably and at low cost. We propose a modular and scalable solution which can be adapted where heat is present, on each pipe, chimney or hot surface to produce energy. We also offer a complete Wireless Sensor Network system feed by this harvested energy.

What is your vision in regards to the future of the energy economy? And how does your product contribute to this future?

The future of energy economy comes through an increase of renewable energy, replacing fossil fuels as a first step. Besides it is necessary to be more and more efficient in the use of energy to avoid unnecessary losses, with a new model of energy production and distribution. The future we see is not based on the actual production model, which needs to transport energy from power plants to end users with a high energetic and environmental cost. We see a more distributed grid of small and efficient production plants, self-produced energy and energy harvesting to recycle and reuse transformed energy. That is our proposal, we take transformed energy (in example fuel to heat) and we recover it, we transform it into clean and sustainable electricity.

What are, in your opinion, the key challenges of the energy transition in general, and what are they specifically for your startup?

There are many new technologies for clean and sustainable energy production which need to mature before they can reach the market. The main problem is how to develop this new technologies fitting into the market, how to test them in a real environment and ultimately how to bring technology from the research centers to the final customers. To do that, startups are essentials, they take risks, believing in their projects and working hard to achieve their goals. And that means time and money. The main difficulty for us has been getting enough money to gain time for technological development. We had succees thanks due to Philanthropists like the Entrepreneurs Fund of Repsol foundation, to KIC Innoenergy and some grants, and of course and above all, thanks to our early adopters which are disposed to take the risk of test (and pay for) new technology in their facilities.                             

Where are you based, and who are the key innovation drivers in the energy ecosystem in your region?

We are based in Barcelona in Catalonia, Spain, and as you probably know, our country has a very restrictive policy related to renewable energy and energy own-production. Key drivers have been new rules for energy efficiency for the industry and energy prices which are constantly growing and with a future outlook where high energy price and strong rules against GHG’s emissions are the most probably scenario we will face. But we are a company with an European point of view, and we have the opportunity to align our solutions with European policies for energy efficiency and environment and climate protection.

Which results for your startup do you expect from the Tech Festival by DENA in March 2017?

We have really high expectations from the Tech festival by DENA, it will be the best opportunity to interact and establish relationships with the main stakeholders  and actors in the energy sector involved with the energy transition. Learning about energy transition, knowing present and future policies and meeting with the decision makers, will be a great opportunity to test the viability of our business model and the direction we have taken developing our solutions. Besides of that, the contact to potential early adopters & clients, partners and investors will be the opportunity to accelerate our company. And of course, meeting other startups will be enriching as we can share knowledge, opinions and visions about our sector.

We have developed two products based on the same thermoelectric technology. The Waste Heat Recovery Unit, which is a modular, scalable and maintenance-free device to produce electricity from waste heat for its direct use, making industry more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. The Indu-Eye is a self-powered Wireless Sensor Network System for the Industry 4.0. It allows to create self-powered wireless grids of sensors saving money in wiring and batteries using thermoelectric power.

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