Learning that Andrea Rossi’s Leonardo Corporation is moving into the market for direct selling of heat has got me thinking about the possible uses of his technology in the first wave of E-Cat deployment. Rossi has said that with the rollout of the E-Cat in the marketplace it will be heat first, and electricity second. And in the first instance they are looking for industrial settings where low-grade heat (up to 120 degrees C) is needed 24/7.
One thing that is interesting about this plan is that it sounds like the upfront capital expenditure for the plants is going to be borne by Leonardo Corp, since they will own and operate the plants on the premises of the customers, or close by. Leonardo will certainly pass those costs along to the customer in the rates it charges for heat, but if the customers are cutting their heating bill significantly, it will feel like a savings from the start. This could really lower the barriers for E-Cat adoption.
Another interesting point from the post on Ecat.com is that they say that the E-Cat can be used with aleady existing heating systems: “The ECAT Heat Energy is delivered by steam at 100-120 Celsius and extracted through the customers local heat exchangers”. So it does not seem that there would need to be a massive retrofit of existing heating systems — it would be a matter of swapping out the fuel source — e.g. replacing gas or oil boilers with E-Cat ones.
So how big is the market for the kinds of heating that is being offered here? I don’t have a precise idea at all, but I think it could be very large. I have been trying to think of the kinds of places that would be suitable customers for this kind of heat, and here are some places that I can think of that use heat and hot water in large amounts, and could qualify for . Generally speaking, the further north (or south in the southern hemisphere), the greater will be the need. In summertime, of course, the need for ambient heat is lessened, but hot water is normally used year-round
General types of buildings:
Power stations (preheating water)
These are just some possible customers that come to mind — I’m sure there are many more. The point is, there is a very large potential customer base out there, and if the E-Cat is performs well and can significantly reduce heating costs, I think it could be a technology that will be widely adopted.
UPDATE: After Thomas Kaminski’s comment below, I posted a question for Andrea Rossi on the JONP. I asked “If the 1MW plant test proves to be a success, how suitable do you think it would be for cooling using an absorption refrigeration process?”.
Rossi responded: “Yes, it is an easy application.”
Absorption refrigeration is a process in which heat, rather than electricity, is used to drive the refrigeration cycle. Here’s a nice description of the process of absorption chilling, and when it might be preferred to using the more common electrical input. (http://antaresgroupinc.com/how-to-decide-if-an-absorption-chiller-right-for-you/). Here’s an excerpt:
When to use an Absorption Chiller
1. Consider using an absorption chiller when your electricity costs are high, but your fuel costs are low. This differential usually needs to be pretty large, as we’ll show in our example at the end.
2. Consider using an absorption chiller when you have adequate low grade waste steam or hot water available—especially during the cooling season. The key word here is “waste” heat. If you’re producing more steam than you would otherwise use just for the purpose of supplying the chiller, it’s not waste steam. You’re paying for the fuel to make it. Note that we have seen people fool themselves or be bamboozled by vendors because they did not understand this very key difference.
3. Consider using an absorption chiller if you have adequate capacity on your low pressure heating systems to produce excess heat during the cooling season. Make sure that items 1 or 2 also apply.
These criteria can easily be applied to the E-Cat plants, which would seem to be able to produce copious amounts of steam or hot water cheaply. It might not be too difficult to have one E-Cat plant switch between heating in winter and cooling in summer for air conditioning systems. And of course there are many applications which call for year-round cooling systems. So I might add some possible new industries to the list above, such as:
Meat packing plants
Indoor skiing centers
I’m sure there are many more.