One local company is on a mission to decarbonize buildings in an effort to address the challenges posed by climate change.
“There is no Planet B,” said Ellie Rusling, MicroEra Power’s CEO and co-founder.
MicroEra Power is developing an on-site energy storage solution, called THERMAplus, which would provide resiliency and low-cost, low-carbon heating and cooling for commercial buildings.
The system stores off-peak or renewable-intensive energy as hot or cold, and deploys it on-peak, when electricity is expensive, or the grid is under stress, Rusling explained.
“We will be able to deliver energy storage in a way that is so much more cost effective and safe than it is now,” she said.
MicroEra Power was founded in 2015 and is housed in the AHEAD Energy’s Clean Energy Commercialization Center at 285 Metro Park in Rochester.
The business has roughly a dozen employees — which includes a mix of seasoned technology and business professionals along with top new talent — and is adding to its workforce, said Rusling, who co-founded the firm with James Grieve, its chief technology officer.
The company completed successful prototype testing in the first quarter of this year. The goal is to have demonstrations of the system ready in 2024.
While the system is still in development, it is already generating buzz — and financial support.
The company has some $2 million in grant funding in its budget this year, including funding from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the Department of Energy’s Small Business Innovation Research Grant program.
Rusling is also in discussions with major investors in the climate technology sector.
Initial pilot projects are being identified for commercial buildings and campus systems, including a potential test demonstration site at Smith College in Massachusetts where Rusling received her bachelor’s degree in economics and Latin American studies.
MicroEra Power and Smith College are partners in a phase-two SBIR grant application that was recently submitted.
Additionally, the MicroEra Power system is being evaluated by several electric utility carriers that service domestic and international customers.
Rusling described MicroEra Power as a Rochester-based company with a global perspective, noting it is working to build alliances here and in Europe.
The business is also looking for Rochester firms for possible collaborations, she said.
Among the system’s advantages is its adaptability.
THERMAplus works with on-site solar and geothermal technologies and can be applied to new builds or retrofit projects.
Buildings consume almost half of all energy and generate 70 to 80 percent of urban greenhouse gas emissions, Rusling noted, adding that most of that energy is used for heating and cooling.
“One of the biggest levers to flip climate change has got to be buildings and it has to be now,” she said.
The company’s efforts are timely.
The Department of Energy is working to implement the largest clean energy investments in U.S. history, with President Joe Biden’s clean energy plan calling for the U.S. to invest more than half a trillion dollars in clean energy and climate action over the next decade.
U.S. Congressman Joseph Morelle recently visited MicroEra Power to discuss thermal energy storage as a key enabler of the energy transition and meeting both cost and decarbonization goals. Morelle has emphasized the importance of renewable energy and related projects.
MicroEra Power’s system is not only environmentally sound, but it has additional benefits, as well, Rusling said.
Building owners, for example, can save up to 50 percent on heating and cooling operating costs, with payback achievable in under three years.
THERMAplus also has benefits over other storage technologies, such as lithium batteries, as it is a safer, more durable option and has a lifespan of more than 25 years.
Additionally, the materials the company uses are sourced domestically and can be disposed of safely.
Rusling said MicroEra employees have the expertise and passion to help the business succeed, which ultimately has a positive impact on the planet.
“Increasing access to clean, reliable energy is the highest-level contribution we can make,” she said.
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