Viking Development Group with its CraftEngine was the most visited stand at the World Bioenergy 2012 conference in Jönköping in May.
"The CraftEngine has so far been a great success and we expect commercial sales will start in the third quarter of next year," says Tore Hansen-Tangen, Executive Chairman at Viking Development Group (VDG). "It's really starting to dawn on us that we're about to create a world sensation. In Norway, it's still difficult to convince people of the benefits of bioenergy. Norwegians don't understand its advantages since they're spoiled with abundant hydropower and cheap energy. In Jönköping, we were greeted with enthusiasm and open arms. Not just the prototype, but also our new Craftengine movie (watch it on www.vdg.no) sparked a lot of interest."
Tor Hodne, Managing Director at VDG, was also overwhelmed by the interest and positivity shown by the conference delegates.
"I now believe even more in CraftEngine's market potential," he says. "We know others are trying to come up with biotechnological solutions in other parts of the world, but many at the conference confirmed that we have the first and only small-scale machine which profitably and effectively produces energy from biomass. We learned a lot from the lectures and conversations we had with many competent and knowledgeable people at the conference. One of things we learned was that CraftEngine has an even bigger potential than we initially thought in places where there is no electricity or diesel generators."
But VDG did more than just listen to others. CraftEngine inventor Harald Nes Rislå didn't hesitate when the conference organizers invited him to address the delegates. The presentation "CraftEngine: Micro-scale electricity production from biomass at a lower cost" attracted hundreds of listeners and helped bring visitors to VDG's stand.
"Harald's speech was one of six presentations about small-scale electricity production," says Hodne. "One of the presentations concluded that no small-scale power plant exists today, but that a lot of engineers are looking for a solution. It was, therefore, quite funny when Harald stepped up to the podium and said that there is indeed such as solution, that it's called CraftEngine and that we've built it."
"We also found out from representatives from the US Army that the machine may be of interest to the military," says Hansen-Tangen. "Apparently they're burning costly fuel out in the field even though they have machines that can produce enough excess heat to allow CraftEngine to generate electricity for free. The delegation from Canada - the biggest at the conference, was also impressed when visiting our stand, and that's despite that they have the world's cheapest electricity. They have enormous forests and, at the same time, see a strong potential in bio-energy."
What happens next?
"We're conducting tests at AVL outside Stockholm in June," says Hansen-Tangen. "At the same time, we're designing the unit that will be mass-produced for the commercial market. And we're also following up on all the contacts we made at the conference, which is really exciting. A lot of people want to talk to us about how they can use and develop our technology further. Some of the people we're talking to represent multinational corporations, but it's too early to say who they are. They're eagerly waiting for our call to find out about the test results."
Looking for partners
"Viking Development Group is a research and development organization and now that we're about to complete the CraftEngine we're looking for partners that can help us produce, market, sell and service the machine," Hodne says. "We're also considering continuing to operate the business ourselves, but we still need to find the right partners."
VDG became a member of the World Energy Biomass Association at the Jönköping conference, which means that the company's business profile and other relevant information will be sent to 15,000 recipients from all over the world. VDG believes the conference is only the beginning of CraftEngine`s journey and is looking forward to the future.
Harald Nes Rislå, Control Systems Manager and "father" of the CraftEngine, was pleasantly surprised at the conference.
"There were more visitors to our stand and more positive feedback than we could have ever imagined," he says. "It was fun to see how representatives from well-established scientific organizations, university people and bio-energy gurus completely understood our thinking. A recognized technological community in Europe invited us to participate at a big symposium. Things like that show that we're on the right track. It's also good for our confidence since we live in a country whose tunnel vision focuses almost entirely on wind farms and wave power."
Rislå is quick to add that there are of course people in Norway who understand the power of biomass, but he says the general attitude is marked by skepticism, passivity and lackluster interest.
"We therefore focused our time on 50-60 delegates from almost as many countries," he says. "All continents were represented, except Australia."
"Now I look very much forward to returning to Sweden and be present during the tests at AVL outside of Stockholm. It will be very exciting," Rislå adds.
Johan C. Løken, a former top politician in Norway, attended the World Bioenergy conference together with VDG in Jönköping, and he has big hopes for the CraftEngine.
"I'm not surprised by the international attention the CraftEngine received as I strongly believe in the invention," he says. "But I have to admit that I wasn't quite prepared for the amount of people who visited the stand."
Together with John G. Bernander, Director General of the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise, and Arvid Grundekjøn, businessman and former Chairman of Statskraft - one of the largest producers of renewable energy in Europe, Løken makes up VDG's Advisory Group. And he is a strong profile to have on the team. As a Minister for Agriculture under Norwegian Prime Minister Kåre Willoch (1981-1983) he carried out bio-studies in the U.S. He's still a board member of The Norwegian Forestry Society and recently stepped down as the Chairman of The Norwegian Defense Research Establishment. Although the 68-year-old is slowly trying to wind down, he's still very much involved as an advisor and board member of several companies. He also gladly gives lectures about how oil-focused and oil-dependent Norway is and he finds it frustrating that the interest in alternative energy sources is limited to sun and wind.
"It seems like most people are completely missing how Europe and the world at large are preparing for an explosive energy transformation where bio-energy will play a central role," he says. "Between now and 2050, the share of global bio-energy will rise from 10 to 50 percent, while total energy consumption will double. That means enormous challenges as well as opportunities. The world has lacked a small-scale bio-power plant but now it's here."
Løken has closely monitored the development of the CraftEngine in the last couple of years and followed the tests of prototype A in Copenhagen at close range. Now he's eagerly awaiting the tests results from AVL's advanced testing facility in Sweden.
"All indications show that VDG has developed a power plant which the world will appreciate and demand," he says. "The low price will be one of its key selling points. I hope everything works out as we have hoped but I have enough high-technological experience to know that there may be hiccups and that things can take time. That still doesn't change my view that a big technological breakthrough is within reach."
Will you put in an order for a CraftEngine?
I have formally handed over the responsibility of running the farm to my successors, but not entirely without influence on the day-to-day operation and investments. I don't exclude that my farm at Heradsbygd in Elverum becomes one of the first to install a CraftEngine. We have enough biomass right outside our door - that's after all part of the genius of this invention," says Løken.
www.elmia.se and www.vdg.no
Video from World Bioenergy 2012