Throughout Ohio, there are companies and organizations that are developing a wide range of innovative solutions to meet energy challenges. In turn, the state has many great assets that lend themselves to the energy industry and help create ways to improve energy resources or provide ideas on how to develop new ones.
As a way to bring together companies, researchers and supply chain manufacturers across Ohio to share ideas for developing innovative, advanced energy technologies and capitalize on common synergies for future business opportunities, NorTech held its Advanced Energy B2B 2012 Conference & Expo Oct. 30 and 31.
“The whole reason that we’re interested in holding this event is to promote the idea of building collaborations and partnerships among our cluster companies,” says Dave Karpinski, vice president of NorTech and director of NorTech Energy Enterprise. “That guides our programming, the design of our event and our target audience.”
The event last year was a mix of discussions on energy sectors and potential growth areas within Ohio such as solar, energy storage and fuel cells, smart grid, biomass, waste streams and energy efficiency, as well as trade show exhibit space.
One of the things new this year was a panel of some of the major projects going on in Ohio from a renewable, advanced energy standpoint.
“The purpose was to give the attendees a sense for the breadth of projects that are going on and where they’re being deployed in different parts of the state,” Karpinski says. “It was a good lesson about matching the technologies with the resources in our state to be able to generate renewable and advanced energy based on our renewable portfolio standard.”
What provided an even more exciting opportunity for economic development are all the products and solutions that can be generated, developed, manufactured here and not only used in Ohio but also exported around the country and around the world.
“If you think about energy and advanced energy, all of these systems are massive, large-scale, durable, good processes with lots of manufacturing, materials and components,” he says. “That’s what we are strong at in Ohio.
“We’re coupling our research and development strengths with our ability to make these things and produce these processes, systems, battery solutions, fuel cells, etc., to have an impact here.”
NorTech also tries to generate local demand for these products in the state so the companies developing these solutions have local customers to work with as they develop and perfect them.
“It’s much more productive if your developing, manufacturing and deploying systems are close by,” he says. “That will make you more competitive as you scale up and export around the world.”
This work surrounding collaboration and partnerships with energy companies is part of what NorTech calls road mapping.
“That process helps us identify where we think we have strengths in the region, what the companies are in these clusters and what the competitive picture looks like against other regions,” Karpinski says. “Then we work with these companies to come up with a game plan for cluster growth.”
One cluster NorTech is excited about surrounds two companies that convert waste plastics or waste polymers back into crude oil. The technology, as oil prices have increased over the years, has become more attractive and viable.
“They’re relatively small output … so there is a little bit of a challenge to get the attention from buyers of oil for really small sources like this,” he says.
NorTech is working with a couple of its companies in the cluster on federal advocacy efforts to open up this waste stream to qualify as renewable fuel for the country’s federal renewable fuel standard.
NorTech is also working with Quasar Energy Group, which produces a technology called anaerobic digesters that take biomass waste and, through a biological process, generate methane.
The methane can be compressed, cleaned and used as compressed natural gas for transportation applications as an alternative to gasoline or diesel fuel.
“One of the challenges that they had was getting equipment for these dispensing stations,” Karpinski says.
Because Quasar didn’t want to be experts in CNG dispensing systems but wanted somebody that could work with them that could develop that, NorTech partnered the company with South Shore Controls.
“We identified that need and have a project ongoing with Quasar and South Shore Controls and are working with our partner Magnet to help design the appropriate piece of equipment such that South Shore could be the manufacturer for Quasar,” he says.
Through these kinds of efforts and the information being shared during events such as the Advanced Energy B2B 2012 Conference & Expo, companies are getting help to achieve their growth targets.
“We hope it will stimulate some interest in working in some of these companies and provide chances for collaboration,” Karpinski says. ■