As a renewable energy source, the problem with wind is it doesn’t always blow. The problem with the sun is it doesn’t always shine.
But what if:
• you could use the currently producing source, and switch them automatically, as needed?
• you included natural gas, biomass material and captured waste-heat and oil as available sources?
• this consistent energy stream was generated on-site and specific to your needs?
• the whole thing could be supplemented by your regular electricity provider, if needed?
Well, hold onto your electric bill, folks, because that’s what two local entrepreneurs, Eric Barger and VJ Patel of The Perfectly Green Corp., have done. It’s called Micro Power Generation® and Point-of-Use Generation®, trademarks registered by CEO Barger and CTO Patel.
“We think they’re going to be the next buzzwords,” Barger says.
Headquartered in McKinney since September of 2009, with valuable assistance from the McKinney Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), Perfectly Green offers a cleaner, greener, less expensive option to normal-grid electricity.
The workhorse of the company, invented by Barger and Patel, is the Intelligent Energy Allocation system, or IEA. Barger calls it an “integrated mini-power plant” offering a scaled, localized, comprehensive energy platform.
Above and below: The Intelligent Energy Allocation system developed by Barger and Patel is an “integrated mini-power plant”
The system generates and selects the most effective energy source of the moment, and directs it to the individual customer.
“It adjusts itself automatically and on the fly,” Barger explains. “Renewables are wonderful technologies, but they’re very unreliable ... you can’t predict when a cloud comes over and, for the grid, this wreaks havoc.”
“We take a bunch of unreliable sources,” Patel says, “and make them predictable.”
Patel says once the system is explained to customers, many are eager to get started.
“They want to save on their energy bills, so they’re like, ‘Why isn’t it installed yet?’”
There are no start-up costs or transmission fees.
Barger explains, “I think [some customers] have a hard time understanding how we can deploy this hardware onto their property. The simple answer is you don’t pay for the power plant [with the normal grid.] You get a meter and you pay for the energy you consume. We do the same thing, except our power plant sits on your property.
“The technology is unique in the way that we incorporate all the renewable fuels into one platform that delivers a consistent stream of energy to end-users.”
“When these other sources are available, we lessen the demand that is needed from the grid,” Patel says. “But we do it in a predictable manner, which is why the grid wants us out there.”
Perfectly Green’s primary focus is on businesses with 250 kilowatt-hour capacities and above, but they also serve those utilizing considerably less electricity, like restaurants.
With numerous sources, IEAs can instantly ease congestion in high-density areas, especially during periods of high demand.
Natural gas is accommodated by converted, clean-burning diesel engines. Biomass (vegetation/animal and municipal waste/ agricultural residue) becomes a type of natural gas by use of a “biodigester.”
Both solar-PV and solar thermal are IEAavailable. PV — or photovoltaic — systems use solar panels to directly turn sunlight to electricity. Solar thermal works indirectly by collecting sunlight to create heat. Heated sources then produce expanded vapor that run the turbines to make electricity.
Local brewery, Fraconia, uses solar-PV, natural gas and waste vegetable oil to generate power. Biomass and solar-thermal energy are being added soon.
Waste vegetable oil and captured heat from waste thermal fluids are also used. “We have a project,” Barger says, “that has almost 70,000 gallons of 180-degree water being wasted, right here in McKinney — per month. You can imagine the BTUs it takes to heat 70,000 gallons of water. We’ll recapture and redistribute those BTUs.”
Wind power can also be generated on-site Barger says, “Wind, we have a hard time finding as an economical renewable. But there are places where wind will be viable.”
The IEA is customized to fit available space. “Our footprint is very conservative,” Barger says. “It’s very compact, very well built.”
For now, the product is for commercial and industrial use, but Barger says research and development is underway for residential application.
Barger has an extensive mechanical background, specializing in air conditioning and refrigeration. Patel’s formal education was in engineering and finance, but he’s spent most of his career in IT with Fortune 500 companies.
Perfectly Green’s founders say their first meeting was, by chance, in Dallas. “At a bar,” laughs Patel.
Barger happened to be talking about energy as it relates to heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and soon the brainstorming got pretty passionate. (Patel says the two still operate that way. “You think we’re fighting, until the product comes out and we’re like, ‘Alright!’”)
That led to further research and development and, a few years later, Barger had finalized the idea. “We created a few products,” Barger says, “but we had to learn how to monetize it, to make a profit.
Barger soon met with former McKinney Mayor Don Dozier, who introduced him to members of the MEDC. “I petitioned the [MEDC] to help me out with a shop,” Barger says, “and they approved it. Three-and-a-half years later, here we are and business is good.”
MEDC’s Emerging Technology Program (ETP), now in its third year, played a critical role in Perfectly Green’s story. Perfectly Green was the ETP’s first grant recipient and, earlier this year, became the first company to receive a second phase of assistance, an expansion grant.
“We appreciate their support,” Barger says, “and we’ll be looking to further grow the corporation, which should take us to about 50 employees.” (In March 2013, Perfectly Green had 15 employees.) Barger adds they’re also scouting for land on which to build an assembly plant.
ETP’s goal is to attract high-tech businesses and investment capital to McKinney. “The MEDC has been wonderful to work with,” Barger says. “I can’t say enough about [ETP Director] John Valencia.” Barger and Patel have since been building a powerful team that offers a wide-range of skills and expertise.
EVP Tamara Stasny provides industry knowledge and experience with her career and education focused on the energy sector. Recognizing what Barger and Patel’s game-changing technology could mean to the industry, Stasny joined them from one of the nation’s fastest growing retail electric and leading clean energy providers, before which time she was the senior commodities market analyst for a national energy consulting firm.
COO John Monteiro first became involved as a Shareholder, then later, as a Director. A seasoned executive devoted to start-ups, Monteiro presents a comprehensive background in supply chain logistics, operational management and systems development for technology, software and sophisticated distribution networks.
Valencia says a large part of ETP’s assistance involved getting Barger and Patel connected with community businesses and organizations. “It’s been pretty exciting,” he says. “It’s been kind of a whirlwind for them, but now that they’ve got System No. 1 on the deck, they can really use that as a marketing tool to say, ‘Hey, come and look at this.’”
Valencia says Barger’s mechanical expertise and industry knowledge, combined with Patel’s impressive software smarts, make them a formidable team. “And they’ve helped us as a community,” Valencia says. “Anytime you can assist in lowering power consumption, that’s an asset.”
McKinney ISD is exploring opportunities with Perfectly Green, having completed a Letter of Intent with the corporation. Patel says he looks forward to perhaps impacting McKinney’s overall governing costs. “If we can reduce their footprint and the amount of money they’re spending on power, it should free up stuff for them to do more public service.”
McKinney’s Franconia Brewery was Perfectly Green’s first customer. Owner Dennis Wehrman says his IEA system, in use since February, has worked as advertised and has provided supplemental power to his facility.
Currently, Franconia’s system utilizes solar-PV, natural gas and waste vegetable oil, with biomass and solar-thermal coming soon.
Says Barger, “We like McKinney. McKinney is [Money Magazine’s] No. 2 city in the country.” He adds, McKinney’s slogan, Unique by Nature, fits nicely with the Perfectly Green vision.
“The City has been very supportive and we have a lot of work in front of us.”