In this interview, AZoCleanTech talks to John Conklin, President and CEO of New Energy Technologies, Inc., about electicity from cars and electricity generating coatings.
Could you please provide a brief introduction to the industry that New Energy Technologies, Inc. works within and outline the key drivers?
New Energy Technologies, Inc., (OTCQB: NENE), is focused on the research, development and eventual commercialization of emerging next-generation alternative and renewable energy technologies. Our proprietary, patent-pending technologies and products, which are the subjects of fifty-six (56) patent filings, have been invented, designed, engineered, and prototyped in preparation for advanced field testing, product development, and commercial deployment including:
- MotionPower™ - A technology which captures the excess kinetic energy of vehicles to generates electricity from motor vehicles, and
- SolarWindow™ - The first-of-its-kind see-through technology capable of generating electricity on glass windows.
New Energy strives to identify technologies and business opportunities on the leading edge of renewable energy innovation. Through partnerships with leading universities, research institutions and commercial partners, New Energy is able to leverage the use of established research infrastructure, saving significant capital which would otherwise be required for capital expenses such as land and building acquisition, equipment and other start-up /operating expenses. As a result, New Energy is able to benefit from leading edge research while employing significantly less capital than many other companies and organizations.
What is MotionPower™? Could you explain the theory behind this system?
The concept of harvesting energy from passing vehicles dates back at least to the Industrial Revolution. All vehicles in motion possess kinetic energy, which refers to the energy of motion, and is best described as the energy an object possesses due to its motion, such as the energy observed when a ball is thrown or kicked or when a cyclist no longer needs to pedal a bike in order to continue forward motion.
Traffic studies show more than 250 million vehicles are registered in America, and an estimated 6 billion miles are driven on our nation’s roads every day.
Our roadway-based MotionPower™ technologies harness vehicle energy (‘kinetic’ energy) and convert it to sustainable electricity.
MotionPower™ is best suited for high traffic locations where vehicles are already slowing down. Example installation sites include toll plazas, rest stops, highway off-ramps, truck depots, and traffic calming zones. The three variations of this technology include:
- MotionPower™- Express
- MotionPower™- Auto
The US Department of Transportation estimates that there are nearly ten million heavy trucks, big rigs, and buses in the USA, which are driven almost 240 million miles each year. Therefore, it makes practical sense that the installation of MotionPower™ Heavy systems in strategic locations could help conserve energy required for many types of applications.
What are the environmental benefits of this system?
The prospect of converting vehicle motion (vehicle energy) into electricity represents significant positive environmental impact and alternative energy opportunities. More than 250 million vehicles are registered in America and an estimated six billion miles are driven on our nation’s roads every day. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration nearly 70 percent of America’s electricity is generated by natural gas and coal. The environmental impact of greenhouse gas emissions and the rising cost of those non-renewable fuels, along with the potential doubling of global electricity consumption in the coming years, require the urgent need for creative, sustainable methods of generating electricity.
What sorts of situations can MotionPower be utilized in? Can the system be scaled depending on the situation?
Once fully optimized and installed, engineers anticipate that MotionPower™ devices may be used to supply electricity to a variety of customer applications, including: fixtures, building controls, lighting, back-up systems, roadway signage, and other electronics devices used in commercial settings.
Has MotionPower been implemented anywhere so far?
The Company’s innovative technology has been temporarily/short-term field tested at drive-thru venues located at a Burger King, NY Metropolitan Area; Holiday Inn Express, Baltimore, MD; Four Seasons Hotel, Washington, DC; and, most recently, the Roanoke Civic Center, City of Roanoke, VA.
Another important development is the SolarWindow™ technology-could you provide some background information about this?
SolarWindow™ is a first-of-its-kind spray on technology, a see-through, electricity generating coating applied to glass and plastic. It makes use of the energy of both natural sunlight and artificial light sources such as fluorescent and LED lighting typically installed in offices, and commercial and skyscraper buildings. SolarWindow™ is an organic photovoltaic (OPV) solar array composed of ultra-thin layers forming small cells.
Current conventional photovoltaic (PV) modules are made of non-transparent silicon wafers or thin film that typically require expensive high-vacuum/high-temperature manufacturing processes, are many times thicker than SolarWindow™, and typically not see-through. The SolarWindow™ electricity-generating coating is solution-processable at ambient temperature and pressure and targeted for replacement and new construction; and structural and architectural glass.
New Energy has worked to construct an increasingly deep foundation of intellectual property to help protect the many discoveries, inventions, methods, processes, and materials applications in our bid to advance SolarWindow™ towards commercialization. The net result is the filing of eleven patent applications to-date.
Our SolarWindow™ technology utilizes an OPV array composed of ultra-thin layers forming small cells. These cells are fabricated using mostly hydrogen-carbon based substances. New Energy’s organic solar array:
- Has the electrical properties analogous to silicon type PV cells, yet boasts a considerably better capacity to ‘optically absorb’ photons from light from natural and artificial sources to generate electricity, and achieves transparency through the innovative use of conducting polymers;
- Has superior optical absorption properties inherent to New Energy’s ultra-small solar cells, enabling development of an ultra-thin layer, only 1/1000th the thickness of a human hair, or 1/10th of a micrometer;
- Possesses a key advantage over conventional thin films as these types of PV materials are typically thicker and non-transparent;
- May be fabricated on a broad range of substrate materials such as glass, and various types of plastics;
- Is made of polymers which can be applied using inexpensive ambient temperature and pressure production techniques; and
- Can be applied in a variety of ways, including screen printing, ink-jet printing, roll-to-roll, sheet-to-sheet, and spraying – all methods are important to high-speed and high-volume manufacturing processes.
Under an exclusive world-wide licensing agreement with the University of South Florida and a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the U.S. Department of Energy—National Renewable Energy Laboratory, we currently have six product development goals for our SolarWindow™ technology:
- SolarWindow™- Commercial – A flat glass product for installation in new commercial towers under construction and replacement windows;
- SolarWindow™-Structural Glass – Structural glass walls and curtains for tall structures;
- SolarWindow™-Architectural Glass – Textured and decorative interior glass walls, room dividers, etc.
- SolarWindow™-Residential – A window glass for installation in new residential homes under construction and replacement windows;
- SolarWindow™-Flex – Flexible films which may be applied directly on to glass, similar to aftermarket window tint films, for retrofit to existing commercial towers, buildings, and residential homes; and
- SolarWindow™-BIPV – Building product components associated with building-integrated-photovoltaic (BIPV) applications in homes, buildings, and office towers.
SolarWindow is being developed to interconnect into the power system of a building like conventional PV technologies using the same type of current inversion equipment (i.e., DC to AC). SolarWindow™-Flex and –BIPV are being considered for product applications that could be laminated onto existing windows. Therefore, depending on the method of construction and use of the product, SolarWindow™ may be deployed for new, retrofit, or replacement windows.
How was this technology developed?
Heavy demand for energy has led the research and industrial sector to find innovative and environment-friendly techniques to generate energy. Thus this quest has led New Energy to come up with an innovative technology that can generate electricity from see-through glass. Because of its transparency, use of hydrogen-carbon based compounds, and ability to generate electricity from both natural and artificial light, the Company’s technology could be applied to glass windows.
We believe that the commercial opportunity to install see-through, electricity-generating glass windows in commercial buildings, tall towers, and skyscrapers, is significant. There are nearly 5 million commercial buildings in America, according to the Energy Information Administration. Many factors are driving the ‘green’ building market: rising energy costs; increasing electricity consumption; an unprecedented level of government initiatives; heightened awareness and demand for green construction for sustainability and energy efficiency; and improvements in sustainable materials. Building-integrated and building-applied PV are set to achieve a compound annual growth rate of at least 41% through 2016 (Source: Pike Research).
Commercial office buildings, tall towers, and skyscrapers typically have very limited roof-top space required for the installation of conventional solar PV modules. This limited roof-top space implies the amount of electrical power that can be generated from a small area conventional solar PV array will be inherently low. SolarWindow™ provides an opportunity to utilize a low emissivity (Low-E), ultraviolet (UV) protecting glass window and turn this energy efficient window into an electrical power-producing window. The very high surface area that windows occupy provides an opportunity for SolarWindow™ to offset building energy demand and lower overall energy bills for these commercial office buildings, tall towers, and skyscrapers.
Could you tell us about some of the different product development goals you have for the technology?
New Energy is positioning itself and SolarWindow™ to becoming the standard for advanced window technology for high-grade office buildings and skyscrapers. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), there are approximately five million commercial buildings and 80 million detached homes in America alone. The replacement or retrofit of the current stock of windows with the advanced SolarWindow™ may result in an energy offset contribution to the overall energy equation.
What impact do you expect the innovation to have on its field or on other fields?
We believe that the commercial opportunity to install SolarWindow™ in commercial buildings, tall towers, and skyscrapers, is significant. Many factors are driving the ‘green’ building market: rising energy costs; increasing electricity consumption; an unprecedented level of government initiatives; heightened awareness and demand for green construction for sustainability and energy efficiency; carbon footprint; and improvements in building materials. Building-integrated and building-applied PV are set to achieve a compound annual growth rate of at least 41% through 2016 (Source: Pike Research).
Commercial office buildings, tall towers, and skyscrapers typically have very limited roof-top space required for the installation of conventional rack mounted solar PV modules. This limited roof-top space implies the amount of electrical power that can be generated from a small area conventional solar PV array will be inherently low. SolarWindow™ provides an opportunity to utilize a low emissivity (Low-E), ultraviolet (UV) protecting glass window and turn this energy efficient window into an electrical power-producing window. The very high surface area on building facades and the space windows occupy provides an opportunity for SolarWindow™ to offset building energy demand and lower overall energy bills for these commercial office buildings, tall towers, and skyscrapers.
How effectively will this new brand of solar module compete with traditional ones (i.e. solar PV, thin-film, solar panels, etc.)?
SolarWindow™ has a lower efficiency compared to conventional silicon and thin-film PV modules. Further development of SolarWindow™ is being made to address this issue. Modifications to the electricity-generating SolarWindow™ coating are being made to increase efficiency to become a competitive power offset when compared to conventional solar PV, by utilizing large building facades and window surface areas.
New Energy’s SolarWindow™ technology is leveraged from its growing list of patents filed that showcases the novel technical advancements of the spray on, see-through, electricity generating coating. Generally when thin solar photovoltaic film is applied on a glass pane, it blocks visibility due to the presence of opaque metals. New Energy’s technology addresses the problem by replacing the visibility-blocking metals used in most solar panels with its use of speciality see-through OPV polymers and device architecture. The Company’s SolarWindow™ device architecture is less than one tenth of the thickness of current thin films. The Company’s application techniques, use of speciality polymers, and device architecture all work together to provide an architecturally neutral color and transparent appearance when applied on glass.
Conventional thin-film PV modules are fabricated using high temperature and high-vacuum processes. These thin-film manufacturing processes are very expensive. New Energy’s is controlling processing costs by maintaining a solution processable technology that can be applied to glass and plastic in ambient conditions. The Company has also created an array of interconnected SolarWindow™ cells in a grid-like arrangement to increase the voltage potential and electrical current in a given area.
The solar power market is intensely competitive and rapidly evolving. The energy harvesting market is not well-defined, immature, and evolving with uncertainty. When, or if, this market matures, it may also be intensely competitive. There are a number of major multi-national corporations that produce solar power and develop alternative energy products, which may be competitive with those that we are seeking to develop, including BELECTRIC Solarkraftwerke GmbH, Heliatek, Dysol, Solarmer Energy, BP Solar, Kyocera, Sharp, GE, Mitsubishi, Solar World AG and Sanyo, among others.
We also expect that future competition will include new entrants to the solar power market offering new technological solutions. SolarWindow™ is a see-through electricity-generating coating that produces electrical energy from natural and artificial light; is developed to be applied to entire facades of skyscrapers; may be a neutral blue-gray color; can be applied on to surfaces using inexpensive methods; and coatings are applied without high-temperature or pressure.
What does the future hold for New Energy Technologies, Inc.? Have you any projects planned for the near future?
New Energy’s working prototype serves as a model for future advancements to various surface coating techniques and methodologies for applying SolarWindow™ coatings to see-through glass (spray, film, etc.). We continue to make use of current intellectual property and new patent-pending technologies to work towards and achieve specific product development goals, including efforts to:
- Optimize and evaluate the techniques and coating methodologies for applying the electricity-generating coatings, which make it possible for SolarWindow™ to generate electricity on glass surfaces and BIPV substrates;
- Improve SolarWindow™ efficiency;
- Increase transparency and enhance color, attributes important for consumer acceptance of a commercially-viable product;
- Boost electrical power (current and voltage) output;
- Increase the size of the active layer in SolarWindow™, key to increasing the size of the final commercial product; and
- Develop improved electricity-generating coatings by enhancing performance, processing, reliability, and durability.
Our business model focuses on Licensing-Out to Strategic Industrial Glass Manufacturers in the form of:
Among important corporate strategies, the Company plans to continue efforts to enhance corporate visibility, improve liquidity, strengthen its ability to raise additional capital when needed, and undertake corporate acquisitions, if warranted.
About John Conklin
Mr John A. Conklin is President and CEO of New Energy Technologies, Inc. John Conklin has 26 years of industrial and commercial experience in renewable/alternative energy. Mr Conklin’s has provided technical and business consulting services to more than 50 technology companies, from start-ups to Fortune 500 corporations.
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