Channeling Natural Resources for a Carbon-Free Tomorrow
My parents nurtured my awareness of the big problems facing our world and throughout my life have supported me in my desire to find solutions, even though this meant I was not following any kind of conventional career path. I have also been fortunate to have friends, colleagues, and my own wife and family, who have encouraged me in hard times, and never doubted that devoting my life to working on solutions to climate change was what I should be doing.
For many years, I wrestled with the problem of how to store the energy from wind farms and enable them to generate on demand. As my vision for how to do this developed, I met two brothers, David Marcus and Michael Marcus, successful wind energy investors, who understood the wind energy industry without storage and saw the need for new technology to transform the industry into a mainstream generator of electricity. They suggested that we create a company to pursue this vision. Working with Justin Aborn, now our Chief Scientist, the team invented a unique approach to fuel-free compressed air energy storage for large energy projects.
We founded General Compression to create scalable, cost-effective, carbon-free, responsive generation to power the United State’s economy of the 21st-century. Our country has some of the best wind resources in the world and our power projects, which will combine conventional wind farms and our storage technology to create a new type of generator, could play a major role in powering the cost-effective, carbon-free grid of the future.
The electricity grid is one of the only networks that we try to operate without any significant storage. Our transportation infrastructure is managed with parking lots for cars, pipelines that move oil and natural gas have storage facilities, and data networks have servers to store backup data. But on the electric grid, supply is matched to demand only by turning power plants up and down in response to the demand for electricity. Because of this, grid operators are unable to make wind and solar a significant percentage of the power supply. Our company’s goal is to remove these limits by making wind power and other renewables as dispatchable as the most responsive conventional generators. Our technology will eliminate the disadvantages of intermittent renewables like wind and solar, and allow them to successfully compete with fossil fuel-based generation and become a major part of our nation’s energy supply.
To make sure that our solution will work in the actual marketplace, we designed it after understanding the needs of all of the stakeholders who are involved in making the decision to build a new type of power plant. We realized we had to create superior value for wind developers, project investors, utilities, transmission operators, regulators, and the businesses and individuals, who are the ultimate users of the electricity. Getting people over the risk of trying new technology is hard, and the benefits from working with us must greatly exceed their risks. We are accomplishing this with Dispatchable Wind power plants that are clean and carbon-free and reliable and cost-effective and more profitable in the long run than conventional carbon-based generation.
To develop a new technology solution, and successfully bring it into the market is a great challenge and some of the most exciting and meaningful work available. I feel grateful for the all the talented and dedicated people at my company who bring their best effort to work every day, day after day, to help make this vision a successful reality. There is nothing I would rather be doing in my life, and I am fortunate to have such an inspiring team.
Eric Ingersoll is the CEO and Founder of General Compression, an ARPA-E awardee that focuses on developing utility-scale, compressed air energy storage technology. This post originally appeared on the White House’s Champions of Change blog as part of an award that honors individuals who are advancing new ideas that are leading the way to a better energy future.