Clean Renewable Energy You've Never Heard Of

Heat capture is a technology that uses waste heat to generate power. Its a little used and in many places little known technology, but it could have wide reaching effects on carbon emissions, climate change, and industry in United States.

Our interview subject today, Ken Pavlich, is a friend of the site. When he last spoke to North and Clark he was talking about the goldmine he managed.

photo by: Crystalline Radical


  1. How can we trust any industrial polluter to make clean energy? These people are the problem not the solution!

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  3. Dave, I think you take a too strident a view on this. While its true that many industries have been irresponsible in dealing with the environment it would be wrong to make a blanket accusation against all of manufacturing.

    If we are going to use glass in America there have to be glass plants. Why not look to the manufacture that already exists and try to improve it?

    My political views and Ken's are not identical, but I respect what he's doing in trying to find ways to help business and manufacture in the U. S. deal with environmental and political issues and that's why I interviewed him.

  4. Dave, I can feel your frustration coming through your comments. However, you might want to consider that the "industrial polluters" (agricultural, manufacturing, natural resources, and services) to which you refer are nothing more than the people, capital and resources that provide virtually everything that we all use, consume, and rely upon; including the computers used to create, read, and post in columns such as these.

    All of the components of the developing new energy economy (wind turbines, solar panels, electric cars, energy efficient building materials, bio-fuel plants, etc.) are products of those same industries.

    I have had the opportunity to work with a number of companies risking significant capital to pioneer energy efficient technologies such as heat recovery power generation that simply would not have been economically feasible as little as 10 years ago. These organizations, and their employees, are members of that portion of our society that is striving to provide workable solutions to our energy future while continuing to produce the important products used by our society. The general public does not usually hear about these efforts, but that does not diminish the importance of their contributions.

    What I have found to be generally true is that all industry participants, from solar panel manufacturers to coal miners, need some degree of legislative certainty for the near and mid-term future. When the society (government) provides that certainty, the entreprenurial spirit of large and small firms alike will mobilize ideas, people and capital to provide products within the framework of those rules.

    Unfortunately, the legislation impacting energy issues has changed every one or two years over the past three decades; denying investors any certainty regarding legislative treatment of taxation, grants, or rebates affecting the potential return on their investments in solar, wind, bio-fuel, geothermal, and energy efficiency technologies. It should not be a surprise that advancements have come more slowly than many people expected.

    Throughout my career, I have found that there has never been a shortage of people quick to complain about the way things are, or to reach a flawed conclusion based on emotions instead of facts. There have been relatively few willing to invest the time and effort to understand the issues and the potential unintended consequences of actions well enough to put forth creative and credible solutions.

    "Energy" is one of those extremely complex issues that is tightly woven into the fabric of virtually every facet of our society, making it one of the more difficult areas to adequately comprehend, much less accurately predict the outcome of legislative changes.

    Those companies willing to forge ahead with this backddrop should be congratulated for their willingness to take a position on the leading, and often bleeding (as in red ink), edge of technology.

  5. This seems like an ingenious (and relatively lower tech, if I'm understanding the concept) method of making the energy consumption more efficient, I have to say I'd not heard much about this before. Thanks for the info.

  6. Thanks for the comment Charles.

    You remind me of a point that Ken made that got cut out in the editing. Heat capture is one of the few ways that energy can be generated right when it is needed. As opposed to coal plants that run when coal is being burned or solar that produces energy when it is sunny, heat capture is creating energy when and only when the factory is in operation and creating a gas stream. So it is the energy is made right when it is needed.

  7. The idea almost seems like a modern refinement of the ideas used trying to develop a perpetual motion machine if I'm not entirely off-base here. I'm no engineer and my memories of that concept are coming back from the spooky depths of high school science memories, but that's what it conjured up when listening. In the end, it's refinements to existing processes that usually gets us to that next leap in innovation. This seems a cool way to get some extra juice in the system.

  8. Charles, you captured the concept exactly correct; waste heat recovery is simply a way to get some extra juice in the system.

    From a standpoint of energy balance, the idea is that as the value of power rises, it becomes economically feasible to commit additional money for the equipment to capture the energy that is currently leaving an industrial facility as heat.

    The vast majority of what you might see leaving industrial exhaust stacks is simply moisture that is condensing out of the hot gases leaving the stack. That can be visible identification of heat potential.

    Whether or not the gas stream is large enough and hot enough to economically produce power depends on a number of factors; chief among those is the value of the generated power. This includes not just the value of the power that does not have to be purchased from the utility, but also the value of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) and other incentives provided by Federal, State, and Local government entities.

    At this time, only 25% to 30% of states with Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) include waste heat recovery as a renewable energy. Consequently, this energy source that generates zero incremental carbon and is typically available 24 hours per day, seven days per week, does not generally receive the same incentives for investment as other low carbon alternative energy sources.

    Hopefully, the next energy bill that comes from Washington will target the goal of carbon reduction, and not just the individual technologies with the strongest lobbying groups.



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