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 Climate Change

Energy
Published on: Oct. 5, 2020, 11:57 a.m.
No more power cables if Emrod’s tech takes off
  • Switching on the lights far away, with no wires

By Sekhar Seshan. Consulting Editor, Business India

With a Royal Society award nomination, start-up company Emrod is all set to let Powerco, the second largest electricity distribution company in New Zealand, to test its technology.

“We have an abundance of clean hydro, solar and wind energy available around the world, but there are costly challenges that come with delivering that energy using traditional methods,” says serial tech entrepreneur Greg Kushnir, who was determined to find a technology to cut these costs. “Offshore wind farms, for example, require underwater cables which are expensive to install and maintain.” 

Kushnir, who wanted to come up with a solution to move all that clean energy around from where it is abundant to where it is needed in a cost-effective, eco-friendly way, was struck by how little has been done in the area of transmitting energy wirelessly over vast distances. 

“Generation and storage methods have progressed tremendously over the last century, but transmission has remained virtually unchanged since Edison, Siemens, and Westinghouse first introduced electric networks based on copper wires 150 years ago,” he says. “Everyone seems to be fixated on the notion that energy comes to consumers as electricity over copper wires. I knew there had to be a better way.”

He found it. He approached Callaghan Innovation, which backed Emrod with a research and development grant and seconded their lead scientist, Dr Ray Simpkin, to lead a feasibility study and work on the prototype – which received some government funding. What he came up with allows a significant reduction in infrastructure costs, which gives Emrod’s technology the capacity to support remote communities – such as in Africa and the Pacific Islands – by providing access to cheap, sustainable energy to power schools, hospitals, and economies.

The Emrod technology, designed and built in Auckland in cooperation with Callaghan Innovation, works by utilising electromagnetic waves to safely and efficiently transmit energy wirelessly over vast distances. “The statistics are pretty compelling. We are talking about a potential 50 per cent increase in sustainable energy uptake, up to 85 per cent reduction in outages and up to 65 per cent reduction in electricity infrastructure costs,” Kushnir says.

Adds Nicolas Vessiot, network transformation manager at Powerco which has invested in a proof of concept of the technology: “We envisage using it to deliver electricity in remote places, or across areas with challenging terrain.” Vessiot also sees potential to use Emrod’s mobile truck-mounted units and compact permanent systems to address otherwise expensive outages.

After delivering the next prototype to Powerco in October, Emrod will spend two to three months carrying out lab testing and training the former’s personnel. “The system will transmit only a few kilowatts, but wireless systems using Emrod technology can transmit any amount of power current wired solutions transmit,” Kushnir adds.


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