Success Stories

ATR Solartech

Overview: ATR is a Maryland-based engineering firm that has developed a suite of solar power systems for small-scale commercial and residential applications. ATR Solartech products are produced in Maryland and feature state-of-the-art sun tracking technology across multiple types of solar power systems. Learn More »

Harness Industries

Overview: Harness Industries, a newly formed company that recently joined the Clean Energy Technology Incubator (CETI) at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, will use renewable energy to empower owners of large parking lots to generate revenue on what has traditionally been unprofitable space. Learn More »

TimberRock Energy Solutions

Overview: TimberRock Energy Solutions is making the promise of 100 percent "clean" electric vehicles (EVs) a reality. Learn More »

SSI

Overview: SSI, a Baltimore, Maryland headquartered energy solutions company, develops highly innovative mobile renewable powered energy, communications and water systems that save lives in the aftermath of a catastrophe such as the one that recently struck Japan. Learn More »

HY-TEK Bio

Overview: HY-TEK Bio is an early-stage company that has been working since 2008 to devise a patent-pending process to remove carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gases from smoke stake flue gas. Learn More »

Baltimore Electric Vehicle Initiative and Altcar

Overview: Soon people will be able to rent electric cars by the hour, out of the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore. It will cost nine dollars per hour, or $72.00 for a whole day. Users who pay a $25.00 per month fee will receive a discount. Another option will be to pay as you go, receiving a monthly bill. This program is called Altcar. People can sign up at the Science Center or online. Learn More »

Energy Answers International

Energy Answers International is now in permitting stages to build a large waste-to-electricity power plant, called the Fairfield Renewable Energy Facility, on the Fairfield Peninsula, Baltimore. Construction will start in 2010. The company specializes in re-using society’s waste products to create electricity, steam, and recycled goods. Learn More »

Alban Inspections

Alban Inspections provides the services of building safety and energy efficiency inspections. They have a large staff, and are members of the trade organization, American Certified Home Inspectors, which holds high standards in certifying its members. Learn More »

WaveBob

Some of the world’s most energetic deep ocean waves can be found in the North Atlantic, off the western coast of Ireland. It was in that country’s town of Maynooth that the company WaveBob opened in 1999, when physicist and founder William Dick had the idea to build a unique device that would float in the ocean, and transform the up and down motion of sea waves into electricity. Learn More »

Standard Solar

Standard Solar is one of Maryland’s first solar installation companies. Leland Bristol and Neville Williams started the company as LBA solar, installing photovoltaic panels in residential applications. As their market grew, the two formed Standard Solar in 2004, offering additional services of solar hot water and larger scale projects. Learn More »

Potomac Wind Energy

Potomac Wind Energy (PWE) got its start when owner and former surgeon, Carlos Fernandex-Buenos decided to turn his hobby into a living. He was seeing the relatively gentle but erratic Maryland gales (yearly average 12 mph) throw around an antique “Aermotor” windmill at his Dickerson, Maryland home. Learn More »

Earth River Geothermal

The Earth River company of Annapolis designs and installs ground source heat pumps for buildings. Average systems cost about $14,000 after all rebates and subsidies are accounted for, and can pay for themselves in as little as five years through savings on electric and heating bills. Learn More »

Clean Green Chesapeake

At Clean Green Chesapeake, researchers are developing a technology suite they believe will accomplish three goals: produce affordable biofuel, enhance agriculture/aquaculture productivity, and improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay and other polluted sites. Learn More »

 


 

ATR Solartech

Advanced Technology & Research Corp. (ATR) is a Maryland-based engineering firm with a 38-year history in military systems, robotics, and automation equipment. The company has recently developed a suite of solar power systems for small-scale commercial and residential applications.

All ATR Solartech systems are produced in Maryland and feature state-of-the-art sun-tracking technology for enhanced energy production from photovoltaic panels. The company offers distributed solar power generation systems for lighting and utility poles, ground-mounted systems for residential clean energy production, solar-powered electric vehicle charging stations, and solar components of hybrid wind-solar systems.

Three of ATR’s solar “trackers” recently took sail at the Port of Baltimore’s Wallenius Wilhemsen Mid-Atlantic Terminal. The dual-panel, post-mounted solar trackers will power two all-electric vehicles that transport employees and materials around the marine terminal facility. The trackers use GPS-enabled mechanism to produce 25-45 percent more electricity than conventional fixed solar panels. Once fully charged, the EVs will be able to run three to five days before recharging is necessary.

ATR also recently installed 12 dual-panel solar trackers along Route 32 in Clarksville, Maryland to supply power for the River Hill Neighborhood Center and Pool. The system is expected to provide an average of 33 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per day.

ATR Solartech on the web


HY-TEK Bio

HY-TEK Bio is an early-stage company that has been working since 2008 to devise a patent-pending process to remove carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gases from smoke stack flue gas.

HY-TEK scrubs the gas by funneling it into a sealed bioreactor that contains algae, waste water and LED lights. The algae feeds on pollutants in the waste water and flue gas, yielding cleaner water and cleaner emissions. The process also produces large amounts of high-lipid-oil algae – a key ingredient in some skin care products, nutritional supplements, medications, paints, bio- plastics and biofuels.

HY-TEK and the City of Baltimore about to embark on a $450,000 pilot project that will use algae to clean emissions from a methane-fired power plant while also producing feed stock for biofuels.

HY-TEK scrubs the gas by funneling it into a sealed bioreactor that contains algae, waste water and LED lights. The algae feeds on pollutants in the waste water and flue gas, yielding cleaner water and cleaner emissions. 

HY-TEK will begin demonstrating its technology this summer at Baltimore’s Back River Waste Water Treatment Plant. The city granted HY-TEK $250,000 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds for the project. HY-TEK will cover the remaining $200,000 in expenses.

Robert Mroz, the company’s president and chief executive officer, said he struggled to tap funding and testing opportunities until he began working with the Maryland Clean Energy Center. HY-TEK Bio employs eight people and will need more if tests of the technology prove it is scalable.

Click here for HY-TEK Bio’s web site.


Baltimore Electric Vehicle Initiative and Altcar

Soon people will be able to rent electric cars by the hour, out of the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore. It will cost nine dollars per hour, or $72.00 for a whole day. Users who pay a $25.00 per month fee will receive a discount. Another option will be to pay as you go, receiving a monthly bill. This program is called Altcar. People can sign up at the Science Center or online.

Currently, the science center only has one vehicle – a Maya 300 made by Electrovaya – available for test drive only. The center is awaiting delivery of ten additional Maya 300’s in the next few months, and twenty more by 2011, with plans to continue expanding their fleet with other electric vehicle models into the future.

This project was funded by Exxon Mobil and the Maryland Energy Administration. It was a joint effort of the Science Center, Electrovaya, Autoflex (a 15-year-old, Baltimore-based fleet management company) and the Baltimore Electric Vehicle Initiative (BEVI). BEVI is a partner of the non-profit organization, International Center for Sustainable Development. They work to reduce carbon emissions by implementing smart grid infrastructure for the city of Baltimore, and Altcar is the first step.

The ultimate goal is to have as many electric cars as possible, available at different charging stations in Baltimore. Cars will be unlocked and paid for with a digital key, and the energy required will come from sustainable sources. Eventually the program will be able to expand to other cities in Maryland, and the infrastructure behind the recharging stations could be used to supply electric power for various other needs. BEVI also recently started a “webstorm” – a public forum for sharing ideas related to sustainable energy. It can be found on the group’s website.

The Maya 300 is a low speed vehicle. It is internally regulated to a top speed of 30 mph, so it’s limited mostly to roads within the city. A full charge takes 7 to 8 hours, and goes for 120 miles. Rental prices include the energy used to drive the motor, and insurance. At a cost of about 30 cents per mile for standard users, renting one of these vehicles will cost more than the fuel needed to operate most comparable internal combustion engines. It would be less expensive than buying a car though, which may be a value for people who live and work in the city.


Energy Answers International is now in permitting stages to build a large waste-to-electricity power plant, called the Fairfield Renewable Energy Facility, on the Fairfield Peninsula, Baltimore. Construction began in 2010. The company specializes in re-using society’s waste products to create electricity, steam, and recycled goods.

The Fairfield Renewable Energy Facility will mainly run on municipal solid waste, which includes garbage from homes and some businesses. It will also use other types of trash and biomass when available. Street and park maintenance, construction and land clearing, and used shipping pallets all yield burnable woody debris. Ruined cars, in the process of being recycled, give up rubber, paper, hard plastic, and vinyl that are combustible. Old tires, ground into chips and co-fired with other fuels, help the mix burn hotter, pound for pound.

The plant will take up approximately 20 acres of a 90-acre plot adjacent to Curtis Bay in South Baltimore. The remaining space will be available for lease to other industrial projects, with preference given to ventures that utilize the plant’s by-products as raw material: steam, electricity, and re-processed waste. The site has been used for industrial processes since the early 1900’s – fermentation of molasses gave the site a local nickname of the “vinegar works”. Most recently, it was being used for a chemical factory operated by the FMC Corporation.

When Energy Answers moved in, they set up a community advisory task force to negotiate with the surrounding neighborhoods of Curtis Bay and Brooklyn. This enabled the company to make the commitment to hire locally for the 150-180 jobs the plant will create, and plan truck delivery routes that avoid residential areas. As the surrounding industrial space is leased for other projects, it is expected that more jobs will become available.

While operating the plant will adversely affect air quality, Energy Answers will be taking steps to mitigate pollution. Exhaust smoke will be mixed with a lime solution to trap gasses that form acid rain, and passed through a fabric filter to limit soot particles. Activated charcoal, similar to that in tap water filters, will take heavy metals, dioxins, and furans out of the plant’s exhaust and its ash, and a regenerative selective catalytic reduction system will remove nitrogen oxides. To make steam and act as a coolant, boilers will use greywater from nearby Patapsco Wastewater Facility, collected rain, and water recycled from the plant.


Alban Inspections provides the services of building safety and energy efficiency inspections. They have a large staff, and are members of the trade organization, American Certified Home Inspectors, which holds high standards in certifying its members.

The company serves Maryland, Virginia, and DC, and works with building owners, builders, and realtors. They are part of a new and growing field: energy efficiency auditing and inspection.

An energy efficiency inspection is an attempt to discover how a building uses energy. This can involve in depth examination of the integrity of wiring, walls, insulation, and appliances. Inspectors check for visible leaks and holes, water entry, rot, unnecessary electric load draw from faulty wiring, appliances that need to be replaced, right application of switches and breakers, and other details. Then, the building shell is searched for air leaks. Two common methods for finding leaks are blower door tests, and infrared viewing.

In a blower door test, all of a building’s openings are shut except one, over which is placed a specialized fan. The fan measures speed and pressure of the air moving through it – data that can tell how airtight a building is.

Infrared cameras allow an inspector to see heat. By observing where heat is most concentrated on the outer surface of a house, he or she can find where the most heat is escaping. Heat can escape through gaps in insulation, rotted sections of a wall, or defective windows that might not have been possible to find using the naked eye. After inspection, Alban gives an in-depth written report that includes: a building’s strengths, areas of concern, maintenance tips, and repair or replacement cost estimates.

Their website is helpful. One can look at many photographed examples of common building problems, taken during inspections. There is a free e-mail advisory, whereby visitors can direct questions to individual staff specialists, and a listing of contractors who perform the kinds of services that may be needed after an inspection. They even offer a $25.00 gift certificate to Home Depot in exchange for new customer referrals.


WaveBob

Some of the world’s most energetic deep ocean waves can be found in the North Atlantic, off the western coast of Ireland. It was in that country’s town of Maynooth that the company WaveBob opened in 1999, when physicist and founder William Dick had the idea to build a unique device that would float in the ocean, and transform the up and down motion of sea waves into electricity. This device shares the trademark name, WaveBob.

Previous attempts had been conceived but were subject to damage by the largest waves: 90 foot swells that come in hundred-year cycles. A WaveBob can self-adjust to bear whatever wave energy surrounds it, and is designed to stand even the most massive waves. The technology involves two buoyant bodies (bobs), one light enough to float on the water’s surface, the other, just heavy enough to rest suspended below surface. The two bobs are connected by a shaft. When the whole device is tossed up and down by waves, this shaft pushes and pulls a hydraulically driven dynamo inside one of the bobs. It works with waves moving in any direction.

The device’s unique adaptability comes from a remotely adjustable ballast in the upper bob. If the waves become too violent, adjusting the buoyancy of the upper bob can limit the amount of energy the device absorbs from a given wave. In theory, this allows it to survive incredibly powerful storms without being ripped to pieces. It also allows tuning for optimum efficiency. Each device is has a diameter of roughly 60 feet, and is 25 feet tall.

The company launched its first prototypes off the Galway coast in 2006, each with a capacity of 30 Kilowatts (roughly the electric consumption of three to six American homes) and plans a 250 Megawatt project for launch west of Ireland in late 2011. Since founding, WaveBob has formed partnerships with American companies Chevron, Pacific Gas and Electric, Siemens and GE, plus a number of other power providers and energy companies worldwide. They have found support through equity funding, grants from Irish government and development groups, private investors, and sale of their own wave-electric power. Their goal, however, is not to serve as a power provider but a technology company.

In 2008 WaveBob opened offices in Annapolis Maryland. The purpose of the move was to expand their operations, broaden their research and development portfolio, and have a base near the nation’s capital. The company has stated that they are working with Maryland research and technology firms, small and large, and expect further partnership opportunities in the near future. Though specific details about projects planned for North America could not yet be released, announcements are soon to be made.


Standard Solar is one of Maryland’s first solar installation companies. Leland Bristol and Neville Williams started the company as LBA solar, installing photovoltaic panels in residential applications. Their first job was installing 2.6 KW on Mr. Bristol’s roof. As their market grew, the two formed Standard Solar in 2004, offering additional services of solar hot water and larger scale projects. They now employ 60 people and have installed over 400 systems.

The first step toward a complete solar energy system is having an employee visit the customer’s location. He or she calculates the optimum placement of the solar panels or heat collectors, and agrees with the customer on a plan. Then a crew comes, bolts the panels or collectors down (usually to a building’s roof), runs wires from the panels to an inverter (which converts DC to AC), and finally to the building’s electrical main box. In the case of a solar hot water system, the crew runs insulated pipes from the heat collectors to the building’s water heater tank, and may put in a pump to circulate the water. The company can also obtain and install backup batteries, with which a customer can go completely off the electric grid. A system that supplies all of a home’s electric needs can cost $20,000 to $30,000. Hot water systems usually cost less, but can vary widely depending on the demand to the system and the efficiency of pre-existing components.

Most customers pay for the high cost of solar energy installations by using home equity loans, and help from federal and state government subsidies. An additional service that Standard Solar offers – increasingly popular in the solar power industry – is a bridge loan. This allows qualifying customers to borrow up to $45,000 from the company’s financial backers, interest free for one year, to help pay for the installation costs. Because federal and state subsidies can take a long time to get approved, bridge loans can make it possible to buy a solar energy system and have it installed in a reasonable length of time.

Another trend in the way people are buying solar power is the “solar power purchase agreement” (SPPA). In an SPPA, private investors hire Standard Solar to install large (300 KW or more) solar power systems on the facilities of large consumers—for instance a Wal-Mart store. Wal-Mart uses electricity from the solar panels, in exchange for an agreement to pay the investor for their electricity at a fixed price for 15 to 20 years. Wal-Mart gains by having a fixed utility bill, and does the planet good by using a more sustainable source of energy. The investor gains access to tax credits and other clean energy rewards similar to the kind homeowners can receive when investing in Solar Energy.

For more information on Standard Solar, see their website. And to help you go solar, check out state and federal financial incentives for homeowners.


Potomac Wind Energy (PWE) got its start when owner and former surgeon, Carlos Fernandex-Buenos decided to turn his hobby into a living. He was seeing the relatively gentle but erratic Maryland gales (yearly average 12 mph) throw around an antique “Aermotor” windmill at his Dickerson, Maryland home.

Carlos said the Aermotor was originally intended as a water pump, though he was using it as a landscape ornament. It came from a company of the same name in San Angelo Texas, which has continually manufactured windmill parts since 1888. Carlos put an electric generator behind the blades, and took from it an average of six kilowatts.

Today, his company offers several residential wind power products. System outputs range from two to 50 kW and cost $20,000 to $100,000, depending on how much you buy, and what government subsidies are available. Equipment brands include Skystream, and Re-Driven.

Skystream was developed in partnership with the department of energy and called best invention of 2006 by time magazine. The patented blade and tower design costs less than competitors, is quieter, operates at lower wind speeds, and includes a grid-tied power inverter with the unit. Skystream makes the smallest (in terms of power output) and cheapest systems PWE sells – and they will match any competitor’s quote.

Before sale, the company offers site-specific wind analysis to determine how much power is available. Sometimes the result is that site is found to be untenable for wind power. On the PWE website, there’s a video on how to choose the best wind power system in which Carlos advises, “Look to the place where the sun sets – if you see forest and trees, you probably don’t have a good place for wind power.”

Their website has lots of other information, including prices, tax rebate and grant information, wind maps for the state and the country, renewable energy news and events, and a virtual wind assessment based on zip code. There are also links to sites that explain net metering, and the difference between being on or off the electric grid.

Most recently, Fernandex-Buenos is working on three patents for his electric retrofits of Texas-based Aermotor systems, to which he adds three-phase, permanent magnet generators and programmable grid-tied inverters. According to him, the antique wind mill blades in his yard often spin even while the rest of his modern towers – including the Skystream – are standing still.

He’s in the act of collecting data on this. It will take at least another year’s worth before the California Energy Commission (the relevant legal authority) will even consider whether the design warrants federal subsidies for its construction.


The Earth River company of Annapolis designs and installs ground source heat pumps for buildings. Average systems cost about $14,000 after all rebates and subsidies are accounted for, and can pay for themselves in as little as five years through savings on electric and heating bills.

Installation consists of burying a length of high-density polyethylene tubing underground near a building, and connecting both ends of that tube to an above-ground reversible heat pump. If you’re reading this and you are already familiar enough with geothermal technology, skip the next few paragraphs.

A heat pump is a machine that takes heat from one area, and moves it into another area. The central air conditioning systems in many buildings use what’s called an air source heat pump. In the summer, these take heat from the air indoors, and move it into the air outside, acting to cool the air inside while warming the outside air. The process can be reversed in the winter.

In a ground source heat pump, heat is moved between indoor air and water that’s circulated underground. For two significant reasons, a ground-source heat pump works more efficiently than an air source heat pump, and so costs less money to operate.

First: water has better thermal conductivity than air. This means that if you had a gallon of water and a gallon of air, both at equal temperatures and pressures, and you put them each in a pot over a fire, the water would heat up faster than the air.

Second: the temperature of the ground past a depth of about 4 feet is nearly constant all year. As water travels through the tubing, it’s brought to the same temperature as the ground – about 57 degrees farenheit in Maryland. Because this temperature is already (relatively) close to the temperature we desire for our indoor air, the heat pump doesn’t have to work as hard to get the same result. It doesn’t have as steep a hill to climb.

Indoor air, drinking and bathing water, or anything else can be heated or cooled by this system.

There may still be applications for this technology that remain unfound or largely unpracticed. Earth River is unique in offering to tie in their systems with radiant heat flooring, which they claim makes radiant heat affordable for the average home.

The company has the versatility of offering both horizontal and vertical wells: underground tubing can be buried under a wide, shallow trench, or a deep hole that only takes up a few square yards at the surface. The second option keeps geothermal available to buildings on smaller plots of land. Earth River has installed systems in places ranging from Baltimore to the Washington D.C. metro area, and the company does a complete job of hiring and directing subcontractors for the digging, plumbing, and HVAC work. As a result, they say their subcontractors have begun hiring new employees.


Clean Green Chesapeake

Startup plans to turn algae into biofuel, livestock feed and a cleaner bay

At Clean Green Chesapeake, researchers are developing a technology suite they believe will accomplish three goals: produce affordable biofuel, enhance agriculture/aquaculture productivity, and improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay and other polluted sites.

“We have what we believe are some transformative technologies in the growth system for algaes,” said George Oyler, MD PhD, president and founder of Clean Green Chesapeake (CGC).

Founded in autumn 2009, CGC has established a research facility at the Clean Energy Technology Incubator at University of Maryland Baltimore County where the company is developing an integrated system for algae wastewater treatment and biofuel production.

CGC’s proprietary photobioreactor is capable of analyzing organisms in wastewater and identifying native strains of algae that are best suited to producing algal biofuel, agriculture/aquaculture feed and other high-value products, while resisting negative impacts from toxins or competing organisms.

CGC is developing other technologies to selectively cultivate those algae strains in environmentally friendly membrane systems, improve the extraction and purification of algal oil, and integrate those production facilities into wastewater remediation systems.

The startup company faces extensive competition in the burgeoning algal biofuels market. About 150 U.S. companies are pursuing algal developments and sales, Oyler said, and about a dozen of those have received hefty financing. Exxon/Mobil recently invested $600 million in algal biofuels research at Synthetic Genomics. Shell, Chevron, BP, Conooco/Philips and Bill Gates’ Cascade Investments have also invested hundreds of millions in algae ventures.

CGC, however, has a few competitive advantages, Oyler said.

The company is a founding member of the Algal BioEnergy Alliance (ABA) – a network of researchers from University of Maryland, the Johns Hopkins University, University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the New Mexico State University. That affiliation links CGC to a network of experts and several multi-million-dollar research programs.

Unlike many algae firms with energy-company financing, CGC is planning to tap more revenue streams than just biofuel sales. It is preparing to sell its intellectual property worldwide as well as market agriculture/aquaculture feed and nutriceutical products that are generated through algae processes. It is also planning to take an active role in environmental restoration efforts, beginning with the clean up of the Chesapeake Bay.

“We think the Chesapeake is an ideal application for our technologies,” Oyler said. “As much as $10 billion is going to be spent cleaning up the Chesapeake over the next decade. That presents a significant market opportunity for startups that can help that effort, and we think Clean Green Chesapeake can.”

Algae-growing systems, which can strip nutrients out of wastewater generated by municipalities, agricultural operations and others, could ease a primary source of contamination of the Chesapeake, he said.

CGC plans to install several pilot wastewater treatment/algal biofuel units at key locations around the Chesapeake over the next 18 months and begin establishing commercial installations within the next three to five. The company is currently looking for angel investors to fund the expansion and industry partners to supply the waste stream, such as local governments, agricultural operations, factories and energy companies. (In addition to cleaning nutrients out of wastewater, algae systems can “scrub” carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants and other industrial facilities.)

“Algae,” Oyler said. “has enormous promise for environmental enhancement, improvement of agriculture and aquaculture productivity, and to sustainably support our energy needs, particularly for liquid transportation fuel.”