Mr. Joe Desmond, EVP & Chief Marketing & Business Development Officer of Ice Energy, discusses how the Ice Bear can be a useful energy storage device for numerous customers.
Ben Lack: I wanted to talk about, you guys have been in the news a lot lately, and I’d really like to know what you guys do.
Joe Desmond: Sure. Okay, first off, we’re a company that focuses on intelligent distributed energy storage technology. And by intelligent we mean the ability to manage it in real time, so as the utility can treat it as a single asset, and it’s distributed storage technology. So let me take you over here and show you what we’re talking about.
Obviously, during the day when it’s hot is when the system reaches its peak demand. So what we’ve done is to build a technology that takes advantage of the temperature difference between day and night in order to find a way of shifting that energy and relieving the pressure on the grid. What we do is we actually will make ice. This is a distributed storage device. We call it the Ice Bear, and it holds 450 gallons of water. And so at night we will charge or make ice, and it’ll take anywhere from 8 to 10 hours. And we do that when it’s off-peak so the system can produce the energy when it’s cleaner cheaper and more efficient. During the daytime what we do is we’ll come over and we’ll connect into an HVAC unit. And that HVAC unit… What we’re doing here is we have a control system and we run a refrigerant line from right here out into the HVAC. So we drop a coil inside that system, and it’s a closed-leak refrigerant. So, otherwise, what would normally happen is a compressor as it get hot, it has to work very, very hard. In fact, the hotter it gets, the harder that compressor has to work. What we’re able to do is we take a closed-leak refrigerant and we reject that heat back into the block of ice, melting that ice so we guarantee that we can turn off that compressor for a minimum of six hours, typically six to ten hours. And we guarantee the delivery of a minimum of 30-ton hours of cooling. In fact, because it’s the refrigerant into the ice, it also means that it doesn’t make a difference what the outdoor temperature is, meaning the hotter it gets, actually the higher the value of the system provides.
Ben Lack: So this application is really good during the day. That’s typically when folks are using most of their energy anyway, and so this actually would help with peak demand, but also save some energy.
Joe Desmond: Well, yeah, now we’re very careful. This is an energy storage which is about shifting energy from one time period to the next. But what we find is when we’re out in the field and we’re dropping and placing these coils into existing systems, we actually do see some energy savings as well. The way in which our business works though is that we’re providing capacity contracts to utilities and then, in turn, we go out, we identify. The utility owns the asset. Until they deploy these assets in their system at no cost to their customers. In turn, the customer gets the benefit of reduced demand, some bill savings, and the utility has the system of distributed storage technology and they can manage as a single resource.
Ben Lack: So the utility is going to go what type of customer?
Joe Desmond: So when you look at packaged units, you’re talking about typical commercial buildings like industrial. Anything, it could be a bank, a retail store, a restaurant, or a small office buildings or a strip-mall complex, generally two stories or less.
Ben Lack: Okay. And is the system going to be at the location?
Joe Desmond: Oh yeah. We put it right on top of the roof or we could put it next to the building and then run the refrigerant line up on top.
Ben Lack: So what type of maintenance does something like this have?
Joe Desmond: Something like this doesn’t require a whole lot of maintenance. Fortunately, about once a year, we come by and we’ll put a little biocide inside the water and make sure it can be used. But it’s a closed-leak system and has very little [INAUDIBLE – 03:58]. So other than an annual visual inspection, this system’ll run, in fact, our contracts are for 25 years.
Ben Lack: Oh wow. Are the utilities wanting to buy these systems in certain parts of the country? Are there other….
Joe Desmond: No. Believe it or not, we find that the problem peak energy demand is almost everywhere you look, even in places like the Northwest where they’re winter peaking. The problem, however, is being able to meet their summer peak even though it’s lower. So we find we have projects that are either in pilot phases or have been fully deployed in places like Canada. In Toronto, we’re working with Ontario Hydro or in places like Las Vegas or Southern California. That actually can work in many, many places. What’s more, that cold coil also provides a real great benefit for dehumidification.
Ben Lack: So how does this affect the water, though, because you’re using ice?
Joe Desmond: It doesn’t. We fill it one time with 450 gallons of water and it stays inside. So you don’t have to refill it all the time. It doesn’t use water in that sense. It’s just everyday the water is frozen, it’s melted, then it’s refrozen again.
Ben Lack: That is pretty cool.
Joe Desmond: Yeah, over and over. So pretty sustainable.
Ben Lack: How long have you guys been in business?
Joe Desmond: The company was founded in 2003, but the original technology dates back to sometime in the 70s when the D.O.E. originally funded some research into the challenges about how you make and then melt ice at a steady state in order to provide constant cooling capabilities.
Ben Lack: So cool. And what are some of the growth plans for the business?
Joe Desmond: Well, I think they’re probably pretty self-evident. You know, we’re working with a number of utilities right now. We’re looking at what our cost-effective storage technology options, looking at programs. We have projects, as I’ve said, in all parts of the United States. In fact, so far we have over five million hours of operations data in the field.
Ben Lack: Where are most of the systems located right now?
Joe Desmond: They’re evenly spread out, although probably a heavier concentration in California which tends to be one of the states that leads interest in storage technology.
Ben Lack: And talk to me a little bit about why you’re so interested in the company, why you joined the company, and why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Joe Desmond: Sure. Well, okay, so I first came across Ice when I was serving as the chairman of the Energy Commission and had an opportunity to look at the evaluation. That was about six years ago. And I knew then that it made sense if it would work. I happened by coincidence to run into Frank Ramirez, the CEO, at an event when I was traveling in Colorado. We got to talking and I had remembered how much. And we had a conversation and I’m convinced that, yes, storage is where it’s at. It’s a great opportunity to sort of define what the rules and the benefits are. It’s sustainable. It’s exciting. It’s smart-grid ready. So when you look at all those things, I was certainly drawn to that.
Ben Lack: Well, Joe, thanks so much for being with us. I really appreciate it and wish you guys lots of luck.
Joe Desmond: Sure. Great. Thanks. Appreciate it. Thanks, Ben.