A Lincoln, Neb.-based company has created a new approach to producing renewable energy within large structures, mainly sky scrapers and multi-story buildings, which also has potential for use at landfills across the country.
GRNE Solutions, a renewable energy provider dedicated to providing sustainable solutions for today’s energy problems, has launched the Energy Column system to reclaim energy that would normally be lost. The system utilizes the stack effect to re-purpose existing energy in new or existing structures into a consumable format or electricity.
Waste360 recently sat down with Eric Peterman, co-founder of GRNE, to discuss its renewable Energy Column system and its potential use at U.S. landfills.
Waste360: What solutions does GRNE offer in regards to renewable energy?
Eric Peterman: Our proprietary technology is the Energy Column system, which allows owners to produce renewable energy onsite. We have seen a tremendous interest in solar energy more recently from both residential and commercial customers. We also offer services of geothermal and wind solutions in applicable scenarios.
The Energy Column technology is best suited for tall building structures that are 100 feet or taller. The taller and wider the column is, the better the system will work. We have also seen a great response to incorporating solar energy into businesses. Currently there are great incentives with tax credits, energy savings through net metering programs and also system depreciation value that can be realized.
The Energy Column’s main purpose is to provide renewable energy onsite for the building. The Energy Column can be retrofit to existing structures or built into new buildings as part of the façade or part of the structure itself. It can be a marketing tool to show the building’s commitment to green sustainable practices and its dedication to helping preserve our Earth.
Waste360: Can the Energy Column be used to capture heat or gas at a landfill?
Eric Peterman: Absolutely. Any waste heat can be captured and utilized to help power the Energy Column. You would need to have a structure located in close proximity (or build one) to support the Energy Column. But the technology is specifically designed to repurpose waste heat, such as landfill gas, into a useable format to produce energy.
Waste360: Any current or future plans at any U.S. landfills?
Eric Peterman: Not currently. We have discussed various different applications for the energy column; landfills, data centers, underground public transportation, parking garages, etc. It will come in due time. Right now our focus is validating the production numbers so that we can broaden the scope to these applications.
Waste360: How does the Energy Column work?
Eric Peterman: The Energy Column technology is a completely passive renewable energy system that is powered by naturally occurring air flows in and around building structures. There are two main drivers that create the air flow through the column: Temperature differences and pressure differences. A temperature difference is created through the stack effect, also known as hot air rising. Any time the ambient air temperature differs from the air inside the column then this will help create an air flow.
This is created by natural waste heat given off by the building structure along with direct thermal heat gain from the sun. A pressure differential is created when wind blows over the top of the column creating a negative air pressure at the top of the column, helping to pull the air through the top of the column. This air flow then passes through the blades of the turbine to spin the generators and produce clean renewable energy for the building structure.
Any waste heat that is given off by a building structure can be captured and repurposed to help power the Energy Column. Naturally occurring thermal heat loss, boiler room waste heat, data center waste heat, etc. are a few examples of recycling the naturally occurring phenomenon around us to produce renewable energy.
Waste360: How did the concept of the Energy Column come about?
Eric Peterman: One day Jess Baker was working in a commercial building structure and noticed that an incinerator shaft was producing a lot of pressure because it was capped on top. The air within the structure was trying to rise and escape the building but it had nowhere to go because it was sealed on top. It occurred to Jess that this naturally occurring waste heat can produce air flows through building structures. It was then that he thought if we put a turbine in this air flow then we can create energy for the building. And it was there that the Energy Column idea was born.
Jess and I partnered together in 2012 to create GRNE Solutions and develop the Energy Column technology. The patent was filed and the company was created. We have continued to develop the Energy Column system while diversifying into other renewables such as solar, geothermal and wind.