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The Green Machine - Made in Nevada
by Debra Reid
Sep 10, 2009 | 1509 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/Debra Reid -
Roger Anderson and Nick Pricola fine-tune 50 and 30 kilowatt waste heat generators at ElectraTherm's research and development shop in Carson City. The "Green Machines" convert waste industrial heat to off-the-grid, pollution-free electricity.
Tribune/Debra Reid - Roger Anderson and Nick Pricola fine-tune 50 and 30 kilowatt waste heat generators at ElectraTherm's research and development shop in Carson City. The "Green Machines" convert waste industrial heat to off-the-grid, pollution-free electricity.
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A dreary-eyed audience from the other side of the globe listened politely as Steve Olson, president and CEO of ElectraTherm, gave his Carson City company's sales pitch. Olson explained the advantages of his Green Machines - generating off-the-grid, "clean" electricity that enables industries to cut costs by producing some their own on-site power.

After the speech, a member of the audience stood up and thanked Olson. The man from China stated there's a strong interest in his country for clean technology such as that offered by Olson.

In return, the audience of Chinese business people offered potential capital and customers for Olson and other Nevada entrepreneurs hoping to expand their companies into the huge Asian market.

ElectraTherm builds "waste heat generators," which convert excess industrial heat or gas pressure into electricity. The machines are fuel-free, thus pollution-free, according to the company Web site at www.electratherm.com.

Without revealing all of his cards, Rob Emrich, ElectraTherm's vice president of sales, gave a brief outline of the the Green Machine technology.

"It's the difference (in water temperature) that activates the refrigerant to create pressure," Emrich said. "The pressure turns an 'expander' that turns rotors that turn the electric generator."

Emrich stopped short of explaining the expander component but called it the "heart of the machine."

"We're getting ready to install (a machine) at Florida Canyon Mine, located between Winnemucca and Lovelock," Emrich said. "They have process water at 220 degrees. The water will go into the 50-kilowatt machine to produce electricity."

Heat will be converted into clean power to help offset the company's electricity costs.

Besides mining, other industrial applications include landfills, incinerators, factories and even motor vehicles, according to the company brochure. Demand for the machines is growing with orders coming in from around the world including Europe and Taiwan, Emrich said.

"We're literally shipping (machines) all over the world," Emrich said. "The requests for evaluation sheets is incredible."

In 2008, the ElectraTherm Green Machine was named a top technology innovation by Popular Science Magazine.

The Magazine's editors described the Green Machine as a significant advance in small-scale power production.

"As a winner of a Best of What's New Award in the Green Tech category, the ElectraTherm Green Machine stands out as the first commercially viable generator to make electricity from low temperature, residual industrial heat that has, until now, gone to waste," according to the magazine.

The PopSci Web site reveals a little more of the Green Machine's inner workings.

"ElectraTherm's closet-size device is the first machine to power generators with waste heat of as low as 200 degrees, a temperature given off by common boilers or chillers in office buildings," according to the Web site. "(Industrial waste-heat recyclers require 1,000-degree blazes). The heat boils refrigerants into a pressurized gas that spins two small, screw-shaped rotors."

If demand for the Green Machine continues to increase, more ElectraTherm jobs may be created by the end of the year, Olson said on Thursday. The 4-year-old company now employs 30 workers between a manufacturing site in Mound House and the research and development site and two other offices in Carson City.

Emrich said his company is not unique. Other companies build residual heat generators but lack the adaptability and portability of the Green Machine. Emrich refused to reveal the cost of his machines but emphasized the generators rapidly pay for themselves "without government subsidy."

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