Joseph Scherer, CEO, GreenFire Energy Inc.
The quest for clean energy has momentum. The Department of Energy’s Small Business Vouchers (SBV) pilot program just announced that GreenFire Energy is one of 43 companies to be awarded more than $8 million to work on clean energy technologies.
What is not widely recognized is that the Department of Energy (DOE) has committed to accelerate the drive towards a clean energy economy. At a broad level the DOE increased its overall funding for key research by $300 million this year, the first significant increase in forty years. This means more research going into clean energy programs.
One of the programs is the Small Business Voucher (SBV) Pilot. The DOE has acknowledged that entrepreneurship is the backbone of the U.S. economy and has the power to lead the country’s renewable future. Small businesses drive innovation, develop new solutions, and create jobs. Last year The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, part of the DOE, started the SBV program to give entrepreneurs greater access to world-class resources in the U.S. national laboratories. Partnerships between entrepreneurs and laboratories are formed to solve key technical challenges and accelerate commercialization of the clean energy technologies.
The SBV program has contributed $15 million to companies in 2016 alone. The DOE’s commitment to clean energy and the SBV award to GreenFire is significant in two ways.
The technology is viable and has speed-to-market
The DOE has to run as a business. It fights for its budget alongside other government agencies and it is accountable to its stakeholders, which include the President, elected officials, taxpayers, and many others. Just like corporations, the DOE has to justify return on investment for its programs. The SBV program is measured on “contributed value” which is the potential for growth and commercialization. Contributed value includes the DOE’s investment, private investment made to the selected companies, jobs created, and the likelihood of revenue licensing from the technologies brought to market.
Similar to a venture capitalist, the DOE must assess hundreds of entrepreneurial companies and determine which have viable technology and the fastest speed to market. The DOE is placing its bets on a selected few companies.
The outcome will be the expansion of new geothermal technology and more renewable energy
GreenFire Energy’s drive for clean energy is to harness the vast potential of geothermal power. Our technology, called ECO2G™ exploits the vast, very hot global geothermal resources to provide clean, continuous, scalable, and economic electricity without water. Our technology is in the market today with partners. Prior research through Berkeley National Laboratories helped to bring the current technology to market.
The SBV award creates a new partnership with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to build on GreenFire Energy’s geothermal process and determine how to create small permeable zones between two or more cased well bottoms. What we do is drill down deep into the earth to create a closed-loop system to circulate supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) to transfer heat. The ability to create small permeable zones will make it easier to create a very attractive version of our closed-loop system.
What this means to the clean energy industry is that the next version of ECO2G technology will be less expensive and faster to implement. The result will be the expansion of this new geothermal technology and ultimately, more renewable energy.
Clean energy has a powerful proponent giving flight to new technologies. The DOE is committed to a renewable future and I am honored that the SBV has chosen GreenFire Energy to be part of the clean energy solution. Bill Gates, the key driver of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, said it best, “These are solvable problems. If we create the right environment for innovation, we can accelerate the pace of progress, develop and deploy new solutions, and eventually provide everyone with reliable, affordable energy that is carbon free.”