Zayed Future Energy Prize Application 2013

I am applying again (I tried in 2011) for the Zayed Future Energy Prize. I prepared my application assuming that the links I had embedded into my word document would carry over into the application, but they did not. I posted a link within my Zayed Prize application that I hope brings the judges here. The responses below are exactly what I said in my application, but the links that I put in as I wrote my answers are found in this document. I gave it an innocuous title to minimize random readership; it is intended for the Zayed Prize Judges, and will be changed after the prize is announced.

Update, October 26, 2013:
Dear Sir/Madam,
 Thank you for your participation in the 2014 Zayed Future Energy Prize.  We are continually grateful for your time and effort in submitting for our Prize.
 We regret to inform you that your submission for this year did not pass to the next round of review. If you would like to know more about our process, or have any queries about your entry,  please feel free to contact us at info@zayedfutureenergyprize.com.
 The Zayed Future Energy Prize is only as successful as the candidates who participate.  We are building more than just an annual award; we are building a community of innovators.  We hope that you will continue to participate in the years ahead. We want you to know that your efforts were taken seriously – every candidate received careful consideration.
We hope that you will allow us to further engage you on all things related to the Prize including information on the 2014 Zayed Future Energy Prize winners in January.
Kind regards,

Dalal Yassin
Senior Executive, Zayed Future Energy Prize

Zayed prize entry 2013

Zayed prize entry 2013
1. Please give us a short introduction to your organization, and its activities in renewable energy and/or sustainability in particular.[max 100 words]
EPC was formed to pursue elpipes, a breakthrough underground electrical transmission technology. Longer range electrical transmission is critical for renewable energy to reach its potential, by tying together generators in different weather systems. The elpipe can be thought of as a slow moving electric train that runs inside pipeline rather than on a track. The cars of the train are solid insulated electrical bus bars that can deploy far more aluminum per km than is possible for overhead wires, for higher capacity and efficiency. Elpipes can share ROW corridors with rail, pipelines, or roads, saving considerable time and development costs.

2. What are the key innovative approaches, solutions or products that your organization has developed for the renewable energy and sustainability sectors? What problems do these innovations solve and what benefits do they deliver to whom? [max 350 words]
Long distance electricity transmission is vital for the economics of wind and solar technologies, because a geographical area spanning several weather systems allows the aggregated output of wind+solar to be far more reliable (this means less energy storage is needed). I have made two key enabling inventions for underground long distance power transmission. These methods are applicable to high capacity AC or DC powerlines; for technical reasons, the most effective upgrade to the transmission infrastructure to enable wind and solar penetration will be meshed HVDC supergrids. This has been recognized by the European Commission. Elpipes are vital enablers of an HVDC supergrid:

1) Elpipes are a unique solution to a vexing problem: how to put really big power lines (with much higher capacity than cables, and with simpler repairability) underground or otherwise out of sight.

2) Ballistic Breakers™ are economical, scalable circuit breakers that will make DC power transmission and distribution dramatically more practical, and at a lower cost than ABB's recently announced hybrid circuit breaker.

The world really needs elpipes right now, because it is not politically feasible to build a supergrid based on overhead power lines in Europe or North America in a timely fashion. Furthermore the maximum capacity of an overhead line is only ~9 GW, and to build a supergrid we need much larger lines ~30 GW, which are well within the capabilities of elpipes. My passionate belief in the importance of elpipes has caused me to not act in my short-term financial interest, which is to forget elpipes and HVDC Ballistic Breakers™ and focus on medium voltage DC microgrid applications of Ballistic Breakers. (I have been told by multiple financial people that elpipes are "pie in the sky" yet I have persisted for five years with zero outside funding to pursue elpipes. I have meanwhile spun out Ballistic Breaker Corporation to pursue MVDC and lower voltage applications of Ballistic Breakers™.  

Elpipes de-risk the cost of HVDC installation and will eventually be used as the main lines in the future Eurasian-African supergrid. My patents will hold, or else no-one will be able to patent elpipes.

3. What do people do instead of using your approach? What comparable solutions or initiatives exist already? How unique are your innovations? [max 150 words]
The grid is being updated piecemeal using technologies that will not fit into the future supergrid. These investments will become stranded investments in the future as they are superseded by the supergrid. Even the HVDC projects being built are a hodgepodge of different voltages, whereas to be cost effective, the entire supergrid needs to be at a single voltage, probably between 500-800kV. Elpipes can be designed to allow essentially any power level through one pair of elpipes. They compete against overhead HVDC lines, GIL,  and gas pipelines, since gas can be converted efficiently to electricity (~53%).

Elpipes answer these problems with prior underground powerlines:

>higher capacity and easier to repair than cables;

>far less complex than superconducting lines and voltage-compatible with cables and overhead lines (HTS superconducting lines are not);

>smaller diameter than gas insulated lines (GIL, the only conventional high capacity underground alternative), and no use of SF6 gas.

4. Do you have a way of defending your innovations from your competitors? Or, alternatively, do you intend for them to be easily replicated by others? In either case, please explain how, including patent numbers or hyperlinks if appropriate. [max 200 words]
I have filed national phase patent applications based on my 2010 PCT patent application PCT/US2010/048719 in the US, EU, China, India, Canada, and Malaysia. I need significant investment or joint ventures with established companies to develop elpipes and defend my patent position. An 800kV prototype can be done for $35 million. I get the patent, or no one will; my PCT was thorough.
Elpipes are the best way to move the supergrid underground. The most important claims in my patent refer to the hybridization of three individually well-established technologies into a viable system for moving tens to hundreds of gigawatts around underground: elpipes are essentially a slow electric train whose cars are bus bars, and which runs on a track comprising the inside of a pipeline. The movable nature of the elpipe facilitates installation, repair, and routine maintenance in an unprecedented manner compared to any prior large power transmission system. The segmented rigid conductors allow advanced insulation techniques that are not possible for cables. (The maximum capacity of cables are limited by the fact that they must be able to wrap on a reel; the rigid elpipe conductors can use much more conductor and therefore achieve higher capacity.)

5. What is your vision for the future of renewable energy and sustainability, and how will your organization help shape it? What are the main obstacles you will need to overcome in order to realise this vision? Please include details of significant planned developments and future achievements. [max 250 words]
The supergrid is the key to a sustainable energy future; it is essential for creating a marketplace for electricity that can span from MENA to Northern Europe; it would have these major effects:

>makes development of remotely sited renewable energy, nuclear energy, and energy storage sites feasible;

>increases the aggregate reliability of non-dispatchable energy sources (wind, solar, oceanic energy) by sharing of energy over large geographical areas containing multiple different weather systems;

> maximizes the utilization of load balancing resources (gas turbines, dispatchable hydro, EV charging, demand response) by allowing sharing over a larger area, which saves a huge amount of capital;

> reduces spinning reserve requirements which saves energy directly;

>will enable greater reliability of the AC grid in several important ways.

I heard the call to the supergrid project many years ago, from Buckminster Fuller, and I have worked on advancing the supergrid both politically and technically, as an activist, political candidate, inventor and entrepreneur. This document is mainly about the inventor/entrepreneur effort.  The high point of my political advocacy for the supergrid was my 1992 run for the US Senate as a Republican in Wisconsin. I called for pollution taxes to replace about half of the income tax, as well as for priority development of a US-based supergrid based on elpipes. I got 20% of the Republican Primary vote in that statewide race (> 50,000 votes), running as a complete outsider. The things I stood up for then have become far more urgent now.

6. How financially sustainable is your organizational model? Please explain in terms of future revenue/profit expectations and/or fundraising for the next five years. [max 200 words]
Supergrids are the most cost effective response to reducing GHG emissions quickly. It will take 20-50 years to build the regional supergrids (Europe, Asia, North America, South America, Australia). This will be a huge effort, with at least hundreds of billions of euro investment in transmission, and a method to build underground transmission is vital. The hard part is the beginning: utilities won't touch elpipes until they are proven, and investors (mostly) are too impatient to back something that cannot turn a profit for 7 years.

 I have made amazing progress given that I have not raised a penny from outside investors so far. The elpipe is the only viable technology for moving the supergrid underground; it will use millions of tons of aluminum. The Zayed Future Energy prize would provide a much-needed boost for this critical enabling technology for future supergrids.

I intend to go for crowdsource funding in the US as soon as the SEC releases its final rules (the enabling law was passed more than a year ago); I will seek $1 million for preliminary activities, including patent prosecution, COMSOL Multiphysics modeling and a 200kV prototype. This will move elpipes far enough along to attract conventional investment.

7. How scalable are your activities? Please explain the size of the opportunity in terms of the potential addressable market for your solutions, initiatives, products or services. Include target customers/segments where appropriate, remembering to benchmark your figures against external data where possible. [max 250 words]
Scalability is one of the strong benefits of elpipes, compared to cables for example. Elpipes can scale to higher capacity than cables or overhead lines. The market in Europe alone for the supergrid will be around a trillion euro; I estimate that ~50% of that will be for the transmission lines per se. Elpipes have the unique advantage of being upgradable after installation; the segment modules are like cars of a train that can be swapped out for different modules that run inside the same conduit pipeline and have the same outside diameter, but use more conductor per km (and therefore can transmit more energy); this makes capacity expansion convenient, as is inspection, maintenance, and repair.

Elpipes are fabricated from components that can be manufactured by existing companies, such as aluminum extrusions, aluminum forgings, copper mesh and copper electrodes; polymer extrusions; fabricated plastic parts, and fabricated elastomer parts. Quality control techniques that are similar to those used in aircraft will be needed to get the very high reliability required for elpipes in the grid. Quality of the electrical junctions will be subject to advanced inspection techniques, enabled by the fact that all the junctions are made at one end of an elpipe train prior to insertion into the pipeline conduit, even if the elpipe segment is hundreds of kilometers long. In addition, each segment module will have multiple sensors so that developing problems can be addressed in regularly scheduled maintenance, rather than by emergency repairs.

8. Please tell us about the scale of impact that your organization’s achievements have had, technically, organizationally and socially, as applicable. Help us understand the significance of this by giving tangible, quantitative figures and comparisons where possible, including details of customers, geographies, success stories, etc. Feel free also to outline any major obstacles you have faced, and how you overcame them. [max 400 words]
EPC has moved the time forward when a supergrid based on conventional conductors and sited underground can be built. Invention must precede development, and elpipes are now a fully formed invention ready to be developed into a fully capable very high capacity underground HVDC conductor that can serve as the "trunk lines" of the future supergrid. High voltage R&D is expensive; it costs around $50k/day to get into an HVDC lab environment, which is why I have focused on the inventions and the patents; I need some outside investment to take the needed steps to create a prototype, yet those steps are now clearly defined, and this is valuable because of my unique patent position.

It is highly significant that elpipes do not require anything fundamentally new to be developed; no new materials are required (though new material can help make elpipes better). No new physics is employed. In fact the physics is well understood, to the point that the entire elpipe can be modeled by existing software packages such as COMSOL Multiphysics, and indeed a thorough analysis and refinement of my design using COMSOL will be one of the first tasks once I get investment into EPC.

Developing any new HVDC technology is expensive and difficult. We are all very lucky that ABB and before that Asea has given us this exciting new transmission option; without their long term commitment we would not be anywhere near where we are today with HVDC technology. That does not mean however that we can trust the major HVDC equipment suppliers to deliver what is best for the supergrid; they are motivated by profit, and elpipes would severely damage the profitability and market share of HVDC cables, on which ABB is making money “hand over fist.” ABB has traditionally been the pioneer, with Siemens,  Alstom Grid, and Mitsubishi playing secondary roles as far as new product innovation. Elpipes are a disruptive technology which will not be supported by any company making money on the status quo. Elpipes will enable supergrids, which will for the first time create open markets for electricity. There will be winners and losers among both generators and electrical equipment suppliers, but a robust supergrid will be a big help to consumers and developers of both renewable energy and pumped storage projects.

9. Please outline your organization’s financials over the last five years, Using the table below, please outline details of your revenues, costs and profits (if applicable). In the accompanying text, please include details of your major financial backers, and add any relevant additional information on your financial position. [max 250 words]
EPC has been self-funded + friends & family. This shows the strength of my commitment and belief in the importance of elpipes, which I have been developing intellectually for more than 30 years.

I think it is remarkable what I have achieved in the last 5 years, including multiple patent applications, multiple publications, and multiple conference presentations. What is lacking still is external investment or grant funding, though it is becoming increasingly clear to decision-makers in Europe and the US that we must find a way to move high capacity power lines underground to be able to build the transmission capacity we need to enable high penetration of renewable energy into our energy mix, and thus break our addiction to fossil fuels. Elpipes are extremely important for the success of the whole supergrid concept in Europe and the US; and the supergrid represents the low cost solution for moving our economies onto a renewable energy basis.

We will license out construction of the conduit pipeline and the segment modules; make a deal with a company in the electric train business to provide the low-speed drive mechanism to move long elpipe trains in unison (without undue stress on the relatively delicate flexible couplings); with an electronics company to build the on-board intranet used for both control and for monitoring sensors. The flexible electrical coupling modules between the segment modules will be directly controlled and manufactured by EPC; these are the "golden eggs."

10. Other than the achievements mentioned above, how has your organization and its management team worked to raise awareness of renewable energy and sustainability across the industry and in the wider world? Please give details of your members’ involvement in major industry associations, agenda-setting for the industry, policy development and other areas of leadership. [max 200 words]
I have presented papers at numerous conferences; a quick browse through my website www.elpipe.com gives information, and I have posted my presentations. To name a few: we (Ron Todd and I) gave a seminar presentation at MIT about elpipes in November 2009, then repeated that at Oak Ridge National Lab in December 2009. Both those presentations were very helpful for identifying the problems in need of attention.

Among my many conference presentations, I think that the paper in 2010 for the IEEE Conference on Innovative Technologies for an Efficient and Reliable Electricity Supply (September 27-29 in Waltham MA;  my presentation to the International Conference on High Voltage Engineering ("ICHVE," New Orleans, October 10-13, 2010), and my paper for the IEEE Power and Energy Society in July 2011 are especially noteworthy. Based the ICHVE paper, I was invited to publish a more detailed follow-up paper in the Chinese Journal of High Voltage Engineering in November 2011. I made a presentation to the iGrid conference in Shanxi, China in September 2012, and to the EUEC conference (two papers, one co-authored by Joe Corbett of Mainstream Renewable Power) in January 2013. I am involved in a supergrid consultation with the Chinese government (www.ciwg.net).

11. How have the actions taken within your organization inspired individuals and other organizations to address the challenges facing the renewable energy and sustainability industry? [max 150 words]
I am organizing a part of the China International Working Group (www.ciwg.net) to aid the development of an Asian supergrid. This comes out of the World Cultural Forum in Hangzhou in May 2013 (http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaeltobias/2013/05/21/china-declares-global-state-of-emergency-an-urgent-telegram-from-taihu/). I am bringing disparate activists and experts from the West to advise the Chinese government on developing its own supergrid, which will then become the core of the Asian supergrid. This effort has the backing of several powerful politburo members. I will not lead the CIWG because I have a commercial interest in seeing that the Asian Supergrid uses elpipes, but I am putting the team together. This will include Peter Meisen of GENI, and Gregor Czisch (both long-term supergrid activists).  The whole world is hoping China gets it right, and pulls us back from the edge of runaway global warming; creating an Asian Supergrid is the biggest part of that. CIWG will also involve luminaries from industry.

12. Please tell us about any other aspects of your company, not covered above, that you feel are relevant to your candidacy for the Zayed Future Energy Prize [max 300 words]
There are several "fathers of the supergrid." Peter Meisen formed Global Energy Network Institute "GENI" (www.geni.org) in 1990. I first talked to him in 1991 as I was developing testimony for the Wisconsin Public Service Commission's "Advance Plan 6" hearings in which I advocated for an HVDC supergrid in the US, based on elpipes. I was a Full Party and Public Intervener in that process and I followed up by running for the US Senate in 1992, with energy and environmental policy as my focus. Both Peter Meisen and I trace our interest in the supergrid concept back to Buckminster Fuller; towards the end of his life he came to see a global supergrid as the most important single technology to better humankind's lives worldwide.

Another "father of the supergrid" is Gregor Czisch, who is part of a German intellectual tradition going back to at least 1930 to Oskar Oliven. Gregor felt so strongly that a European Supergrid was the right mechanism to move Europe from fossil fuel-based electricity to renewable energy that he did his Ph.D. dissertation at Kassel University on the European Supergrid. His dissertation is a real tour de force, and remains to this day the most comprehensive assessment of how to power Europe with renewable energy. Both Desertec and Friends of the Supergrid (Eddie O'Connor) got the idea from Gregor (though neither has acknowledged that).

And finally, the folks at Asea and then ABB are also fathers of the supergrid. Among these industrial scientists, I think Gunnar Asplund deserves special mention. Asea put Siemens into the HVDC business by licensing their patents to them; ABB found they needed a competitor in order to be able to sell their HVDC equipment.

The elpipe is the missing piece of the puzzle; without it, supergrids are not possible in Europe or the US.

No comments:

Post a Comment