Viking Development Group (VDG) has developed a revolutionary mini power plant. The power plant can be used by the Inuit people of Greenland, villagers in Africa and nearly everyone else in the rest of the world. It produces water-borne heating or cooling and electricity as required. Any excess electricity can be sold back to the utility company at a nice profit.
CraftEngine is the world’s only small-scale machine (1-10 kW) that can produce water-borne heating or cooling and also electricity from renewable energy sources such as biomass, wood pellets, wood chips, the sun or waste heat – at nearly half the current market price.
Harald Nes Rislå, the inventor behind the CraftEngine technology, studied electrical engineering at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, and is one of the three inventors in Viking Development Group. He was on sick leave with pneumonia, lying on the sofa, when he came up with the idea of a mini power plant.
“CraftEngine has much in common with established steam technology, which plays a central role in almost all energy production. It’s all about creating high pressures at low temperatures, operating a piston and thus creating energy,” says Nes Rislå. ”There have been many other inventions, but efficiencies are too low and prices too high for such small plants. We believe we hold a breakthrough in the new invention: CraftEngine is based on a new thermodynamic cycle which is reliable, effective, cheap and environmentally friendly.”
Prototype A is being tested in Copenhagen. The next generation, Prototype B, will soon go through new, tough tests.
Promising tests, indisputable profitability
“The tests are being carried out at the Institute for Product Development at the Technical University of Denmark just outside of Copenhagen, DTU holding one of the top rankings among European academic engineering institutions. The machine runs as it should, and the profitability is indisputable. The price will be between 5,000 and 10,000 euros, depending on size, and investments will be returned within only a few years,” says VDG managing director Tor Hodne.
On the market next year
“When will the power plant go on sale?”
“Some time next year, at a very low scale. We are anticipating larger volumes in 2014, but that depends on a couple of things. Firstly, Prototype B needs to undergo new tests that will start in May at AVL – an international engine design company with more than 4,000 employees that has an annual turnover of NOK 4 billion,” says Hodne. ”We think the efficiency of the CraftEngine will increase to 10-15 percent, and then the machine will be optimised for mass production. The next step is to find an international partner who can take on the marketing, sales, installation and maintenance. This just can’t be done by a small company like VDG with only 14 staff. We are founders, inventors and innovators and want to stay that way.”
First Europe, then Norway
“Why an international partner and not a Norwegian one?”
“I am hopeful that Norwegian industrial players will want to become our partner, and nothing would be better than keeping the technology at Norwegian hands. However, it makes sense to focus on the markets in Europe before it’s Norway’s turn, since it’s currently not possible to sell excess energy back to the grid in Norway. It is, however, possible in countries such as Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Austria and Great Britain and most other western countries. And it is precisely the sale of electricity that we think is one of the key advantages of the CraftEngine. At times it produces more electricity than the owner needs. This power can be sold back at market price, which is significantly higher than the cost of producing it,” says Hodne.
In Germany, this scheme is already widespread. Many homeowners have installed biomass burners and are selling back the excess power. Viking Development Group’s little power plant will be more efficient and cheaper than existing technologies.
-“Completely green heat and electricity at half the price: that’s the short version,” says Hodne.
No buy-back obligation for Norwegian Utility Companies
Hodne and his colleagues have already presented their invention to a number of companies and organisations. Norwegian environmental organisation Bellona was impressed by the CraftEngine as a green technology. Det Norske Skogselskap (the Norwegian Forestry Society) liked the idea that increased demand for wood chippings and pellets could bring to use the significant potential in Norwegian forest resources, as well as to reduce re-growth of scrub in the Norwegian cultural landscape. Ola Borten Moe, the Minister of Petroleum and Energy, has also shown interest in the CraftEngine technology.
“He told us that Norwegian companies as of today do not have an obligation to accept electricity feed-in with a buy-back scheme from small producers, as is the case in most other countries. However, legislative processes are currently ongoing to ensure such arrangements in the near future. Obviously, we greatly welcome such an arrangement, and we also believe that a buy-back requirement for Norwegian utility companies will become inevitable. If the majority of homes in Norway get their own power plant, reduced local power consumption will aid significantly in turning Norwegian water reserves into a green battery for Europe. This means we would need to build far fewer power lines, for example in Hardanger. It’s ridiculously expensive to heat our homes using Norwegian electricity produced by hydropower. Instead, energy companies should lay new, thick cables to continental Europe and export Norway’s green energy at attractive prices, replacing environmentally harmful coal power production. In a few years, when Germany’s many nuclear power plants are to be decommissioned, the demand for alternative sources of electricity will increase drastically, and prices will probably be even higher,” says Hodne.
Green, home-grown, cheap energy
“In twenty years people will laugh at the fact that the previous generation used clean hydropower for their electric radiators,” Hodne says. The song of the future is about green, homemade, water-borne heating and electricity, all produced in your own basement.
In northern Europe, it makes sense to run the machine on biomass, while further south the sun could be a good option. In Barbados, electricity is currently made using diesel generators, at USD 0,50 per kilowatt hour. A single mini power plant from Viking Development Group can provide enough light for a whole village at one-tenth of the price, using solar energy, which Barbados enjoys almost every day of the year.
It’s hardly surprising that the Viking team in Kristiansand is both excited and enthusiastic – and that’s even without mentioning Africa!
History of success
Viking Development Group, led by its main owner Tore Hansen-Tangen, has a number of prize-winning innovation successes to its name. The company was called V-Tech AS, and when the inventions were realised, the company was sold. The sale brought in a couple of hundred million Norwegian kroner for Hansen-Tangen, which formed the basis for establishing VDG in 2008. Since then Hansen-Tangen and his colleagues have developed two major technologies: Sandpiper is a system for shipping large quantities of sand for land reclamation. The CraftWater system creates freshwater from seawater or brackish water, and can be run on solar energy alone and thus does not need electricity or other infrastructure.
And now the CraftEngine.