Gratitude for the Help I have Received on Elpipes

My partner and fiance Li reminded me recently of all the help I have received while pursuing my BIG DREAM, to help to enable continental scale supergrids via my two inventions, elpipes and Ballistic Breakers. The bigger is the system that one seeks to change, the longer it generally takes. I am now into my fifth year pursuing this big idea, and I often now run into people at conferences who have at least heard of elpipes and/or Ballistic Breakers. I firmly believe my ideas are practical and doable, and even though I have so far not yet gotten any funding for elpipe development, I have managed to file national phase patent applications based on my 2010 PCT patent application in 6 countries. Along the way, I participated in several business plan competitions, wrote more than ten articles, and got major help from many people I thank below. I know I will miss some; please forgive me!

The two people who have helped me the most are my partner/fiance Li Feng and Ron Todd, who was my CTO for a year. The first industry luminary who gave me help (long before EPC was formed as a company by Ron Todd and I) was Professor Willis (Bill) Long of UW-Madison, back in 1991 (Bill was my expert witness in the Advance 6 planning process before the Wisconsin PSC). I also met Peter Meisen, founder of GENI, the Global Energy Network Institute in 1991, while preparing my testimony. The idea lay dormant until 2008, when in response to a NYSERDA grant opportunity I made a proposal for a regional HVDC loop with the help of several professors, especially J. Keith Nelson of Rensellaer, but also Joe Chow of Rensellaer,  and Mariesa Crow of the Missouri University of Science and Technology. Though the January 2009 NYSERDA Application was unsuccessful, it formed the basis for the subsequent ARPA-E concept paper that I filed in June 2009 (this application also had participation by professors Stanislav Grzybowski of Mississippi State, Tom Overby at UI-Urbana-Champaign, Ron Spahr of the University of Memphis, Ranbir Singh of GeneSiC, and Alcoa). My trusty assistant Ken Mumby at my previous company Rethink Technologies was instrumental on both my NYSERDA and the first ARPA-E application, which were filed from my Rethink address. Putting so much emphasis on these new ideas caused Rethink to fail, and Ken was out of a job. I still hope to hire him back when my new ventures get traction.

I met Chuck Warren of Alcoa and Ranbir Singh of GeneSiC Semiconductor at the Electricity Storage Association meeting in May 2009, where I was a speaker presenting another big idea, the Niagara Pumped Storage concept; this was the first time I spoke to a conference audience about both the concept of pumped storage operating between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario (the biggest pumped storage opportunity in North America), and also elpipes. The concept of a +10 to -14 GW pumped storage facility at Niagara only makes sense in the context of a North American supergrid, and I used the presentation to introduce the concept of elpipes, which Chuck Warren immediately saw as an exciting new market for aluminum. Because of Chuck, Alcoa joined me on my first two attempts to get ARPA-E funding for elpipes.

After that first ARPA-E concept paper I next pursued elpipes in the MIT Enterprise Forum business plan competition "Ignite Clean Energy" (ICE) which has since joined with the CleanTech Open. My mentors in that process included Ron Todd, Harvey Leong, Mark Barnett, and Todd Piett. With their help, I was first runner-up on the ICE competition, and right after that I formed Electric Pipeline Corporation (EPC) with Ron Todd. The first major presentation after ICE was a seminar at MIT arranged by Professor Markus Zahn, who was on three out of four of my ARPA-E concept papers. Isidor Sauers from Oak Ridge National Laboratory also came up for our MIT seminar, and Ron and I later gave a second seminar at Oak Ridge, arranged by Isidor. Then began a year-long journey through VC presentations, culminating in a week long interaction with ABB in Zurich and Datwil; the story is told here. I would particularly like to thank Girish Nadkarni, Claes Rytoft, and Willi Paul of ABB for the chance to put elpipes in front of them. Lots of other current and former ABB folks have helped me as well; in no particular order: Stig Nilsson; Gunnar Asplund; Dale Osborn; Le Tang; Roger Rosenqvist, Kurt Kaltenegger, Mischa Steurer, and Steinar Dale. I also want to  thank Alstom Grid (especially Neil Kirby and Roger Critchley, now retired) for helping me understand multi-terminal HVDC. Hermann Koch of Siemens and Mel Hopkins of AZZ technology were also very helpful in understanding gas insulated lines (a competitive technology to elpipes).

More recently in early 2011, I met Gregor Czisch, a long-time European Supergrid advocate and scientist. He Completed his Ph.D. at Kassel University in February 2005, and his study topic was to show how best to power Europe with renewable energy. If you read German, his dissertation is must reading to understand the need for a supergrid. We have been cooperating since we met.

Joe Corbett of Mainstream Renewable Power has been very helpful since we met in early 2011 (around the same time I met Gregor Czisch). Joe is Eddie O'Connor's right-hand man (Head of Technical Services) at Mainstream, and also quite involved with Friends of the Supergrid (FOSG). I initially met him in my attempts to reach Eddie O'Connor, founder of both Mainstream Renewable Power and FOSG, and before that, of Airtricity as well. Eddie is probably the wealthiest supergrid advocate, and he has done very good work through Friends of the Supergrid to move the supergrid concept forward in Europe, with a slant towards offshore wind energy (I still have not met Eddie).

Just recently, I was honored to be invited by retiring FERC Chairman Wellinghoff to come in and explain elpipes for him, Joe McClelland (Director of FERC's Office of Energy Infrastructure Security), and two other engineers. I share FERC's physical security concerns for our current overhead power lines and vulnerable transformers. As I've been writing this, it occurs to me that I have had help from an all-star cast of industry luminaries; thank you all so much!

Dale Osborn (Transmission Technical Director at Midwest ISO) deserves special mention, because he independently conceived of the basic concept of HVDC Electric Pipelines, before I ever met him. I met Dale through Ron Spahr, Professor of Finance at the University of Memphis. (I met Ron because he was also working on an ARPA-E long distance transmission concept paper in Phase 1 that was somewhat similar to mine; we decided to list each other on our two submitted ARPA-E concept papers in 2009.) Here is a sketch of Dale Osborn's conceptual HVDC electric pipeline, prepared before we met in 2009:

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