Malawi Field Report, Microgrids, New Upgrades, and more

 
Replaceing Diesel with Biomass–making it happen in Malawi
The Chelinda Lodge, like many remote eco-resorts, faced enormous costs getting diesel to their location above Nyika ridge. With costs reaching more than $.50 cents USD per kilowatt hour, they could only afford to run their generator four hours a day on diesel. But working in partnership with the group Total Land Care and funded in part by USAID, they recently received a 20kW power pallet.
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After a ten hour drive overland in the bed of a Hilux pickup, the staff built a block and tackle system and wrangled it to the ground, then chopped up some fuel by hand.DSC_0611

Right around that time, APL’s Richard Scott stopped in on his recent tour of Africa, and helped set up and commission their Power Pallet.

 malawi-chelinda
Now Chelinda can make electicity anytime on readily available biomass, for a fraction of the cost of what they were otherwise paying. And Richard? He was able to get in a little flyfishing.
 

 

 

Power Pallet Upgrades—Version 4.7 released November 1stupgrades

We’re constantly revising and upgrading at APL, making improvements to our products—so often, in fact, we usually forget to mention them.
 
As a step to correct that, we’re very happy to announce the release of our Version 4.7 reactor for the Power Pallet. This is now standard on all models going out the door. The 4.7 has several important new features including removal of internal flanges and hard welding all joints, reducing chances of internal air leakage.  The new reactor also uses heavier gauge hearth materials, including a higher termperature 310 alloy in the combustion zone.
 
Other recent upgrades that are now standard—and all included at no extra charge—are listed below:

*New flare mounting and gas routing–start up gasses now pass through the filter to increase blower longevity. (Note: a gas re-route upgrade kit is available for existing customers.)

* Improved smart auger software automation– helps unstick jammed fuel

* Upgraded condensate bottle. Now made from stainless steel, with a glass viewing port

*New protective cage for cyclone capture jar

*Refined control dashboard

VERGEMGMicrogrids: making them work…in downtown San Francisco? APL lights up ( literally) the VERGE conference

The recent VERGE conference at San Francisco’s Palace Hotel was three days crammed with speakers highlighting the latest  breakthroughs and opportunities for entreprenuership in sustainable energy and technology. But unlike any other similar conference, they challenged themselves to put their money where their mouth is by committing to power their exhibition hall entirely on a micro grid of renewable energy.

Connecting multiple loads and generating units together is the essence of microgrid design, and a good fit for the Power Pallet–with our new grid tie package, it can form the backbone of a microgrid.

But building one on a deadline, in the middle of a major city,  and then striking it every night and putting it back together? That was a little tricky, all the more satisfying when it worked out great–click the image below for a video showing how it all came together.

     AlJazeeraAmerica
Al Jazeera America visits APL
During our last workshop a film crew from the new cable news network AlJazeera America stopped by. As it happened, they interviewed Matt King about the project in Malawi highlighted above. The story just ran a few weeks ago– click the photo to link to the video.

 

model2Power Pallet ROI calculator:Now Updated
How much is on-demand energy worth? And how quickly can a Power Pallet pay for itself? Here’s a great place to at least start finding answers. We’ve recently launched a beta version of a Cost/Benefit calculator for a Power Pallet, as compared to off grid diesel. Enter your currency, likely cost for biomass and labor, as well as cost for diesel fuel. Then enter the number of Power Pallets, operating hours per day, and the model will tell you your likely cost per kWh, and how quickly they will earn back their investment–in many cases it’s less than two years.

Models like this are notoriously difficult to make robust enough to cover most situations, but it’s a good start.  We’ll have been and will continue to be tweaking the model based on your feedback; please contact us.

photo 1

Happy in the Heartland
Most of the photos we share are from other countries, but quite a few of our Power Pallets are being set up here in the USA. Case in point–this is the Jay Newman family in Missouri. Their new Power Pallet will provide backup energy for their remote forest homestead.

 

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Introducing: The Lego Power Pallet
Brian Ballek’s 11 year old son was bugging his dad for something to do, so Brian gave him one of our cataloges and said “here, build this.” An hour later, he had. Amazing–he even got the foam cover on the air filter.

 

Gasification Workshop Weekend Aug 9-11: APL 5th Anniversary Celebration, AR training, Reports from the field

Gasification PowerExchange Workshop #13:  August 9-11, 2013
Gasification Workshop Weekend:  APL 5th Anniversary Celebration, AR training, Reports from the field.

Gasification Lecture and Demo: Friday, 4:00-6:00PM
APL 5th Birthday Party: Friday, 7:00-10:00pm
Hands-on programs: Saturday and Sunday, 10am – 7pm
Authorized Representative info seminar and dinner:  Saturday night, 7pm

Workshop Cost: Free for GEK or Power Pallet owners, otherwise $150 for Newbies.  AR dinner not included.  
RSVP and/or pay here: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/6812136283
Location: ALL Power Labs, 1010 Murray Street. Berkeley, CA
Additional Info for sign up, travel and accommodations at end of email.

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General Program

Our 5th Anniversary Gasification Workshop Weekend is coming up in a little over two weeks from now.  We hope you will join us for more of the usual learning and fun, as well as some interesting new work we’ll be revealing at the event.  

The workshop this round will focus on the three major areas of APL effort for 2013:

1. New features now shipping with the Power Pallet
2. Reports from the field: Liberia, Nigeria, Kenya, Italy, Indonesia, and ???
3. Authorized Representative info and training

The workshop will offer general demos and instruction in GEK and Power Pallet systems, as well as the usual deep tour down the rabbit hole of biomass thermal conversion science.  We’ll orchestrate our standard multi-track teaching program, but with the tracks this round focussed on the details of supporting commercial Power Pallet installations in the field.  All topics and projects offered will also be of high relevance for DIYers, researchers, and home power enthusiasts.  We’ll also continue our user group “by type” breakout sessions to help you find others doing (or wanting to do) similar to you, whatever your interests may be across the black arts.

We’ll have a special treat this time with two visiting students from Liberia.  These are the star students from a biomass-to-electricity program recently started at Booker Washington Institute in Liberia by EcoPower Liberia.  Jim and Bill visited for two weeks in July and were floored by how well the minutia of Power Pallet operation are being taught and transferred.  The program is the most elaborated Power Pallet  training program to date, so we decided we should fly the best students over for two weeks of additional learning at the factory.  Willis and Howard will be the ones with the wide eyes, as this will be their first trip outside of Liberia.  (The next GEKnews will be a report on the Liberia program, as well as other recent APL trips to Nigeria and Kenya).

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Schedule for the Weekend

Friday Afternoon and Evening- 3:00-10:00pm

Check-in from 3:00 – 4:00
Gasification 101 Lecture: 4:00-6:00pm.  by Jim Mason, Founder and CEO of ALL Power Labs
APL 5th Anniversary Birthday Party: 7:00-10:00pm (Powered by Power Pallet)
    – Music, Food & Beverages
    – Recognition Award to APL by the City of Berkeley
    – Machine Demos

The workshop begins with an evening talk by APL Founder and CEO, Jim Mason, on the science of gasification and a survey of its engineering history.  Biomass thermal conversion is explored from the most simple introduction, to a highly technical consideration of the variable dynamics of our 4 core processes: Drying, Pyrolysis, Combustion and Reduction.  A variety of reactor types are explained and critiqued, and the particular motivations of the GEK TOTTI architecture are illuminated.
 
The Friday afternoon program is the “Gasification 101” course of the weekend.  It is the foundation for the rest of the weekend and should not be missed.  AR candidates in particular need to make sure they are here for this intro talk or the rest of the weekend training will be compromised.

Following the lecture, we’ll retire to the yard for the APL 5th Anniversary party.  Many things of interest will happen, but we’re still figuring out what those will be.  More info later.

Saturday and Sunday:  10am-7pm

APL Product Development and Project Reports from the Field
Hands-on Projects and AR Operational Training

9:30 Bagels and coffee.  
10:00 start time each day

Saturday and Sunday are full days of Power Pallet explanation and hands-on instruction.  We’ll explore common issues of concern for creating biomass-to-electricity projects, and hear reports from those who are actually doing it in the field.  Each day has a morning sit down informational session, with the afternoon devoted to hands-on wrench turning on relevant machinery.

One weekend is not enough to offer a full technical certification program.  However, we attempt as dense and complete orientation as possible.  You should expect to come away with a good core understanding of the machine, and be able to properly represent it to others.  If you arrive technically inclined and fast learning, you will likely leave with enough understanding to provide basic support to new users in the field.

For a general introduction to our programs during weekend, here’s a video touring the show from fall 2012.

http://youtu.be/1-cFByJRtro

Saturday morning

State of the Power Pallet: past, present and future

We’re starting a new workshop feature of presenting the details of Power Pallet development: past, current and future.  This is intended to help potential users better assess the current state of the product, and know the product development pathway going forward.  Telling you the future “now” is important as we find many want to do demonstration and pilot projects as soon as possible, but equally want to know when x, y or z feature will be available that is critical to the later deployment stage of their project.  Thus we do the unusual and tell everyone what add-ons are coming around the corner.  
New Features update:  Changes and improvements now shipping with the Power Pallet
Grid tie technical details and demonstration
CHP add-on system
Biochar and the Power Pallet

Saturday Afternoon

Hands-on Learning for ARs and others
GEK and Power Pallet assembly, disassembly and maintenance
Power Pallet start up, run modes and trouble shooting

Sunday morning

Reports from the field

We have multiple pilot projects underway to prove the details for large-scale deployments.  To make things more interesting, we’ve decided to do all these in parallel, across highly diverse use situations, from Liberia and Indonesia, and Italy to Alaska.  We have learned that things are very different in different places . . .  Still, intense learning is passing between project sites and accelerating the refinement of particulars across the Power Pallet.  We’ll explore what we’ve learned in a variety of reports from the field.
APL African tour in July and early August: Liberia, Nigeria, and Kenya
Results from Italian CE certification and emissions, efficiency and sound regulations
How to finance your APL gasifier: a presentation from the US Export-Import bank
ROI models for Power Pallet bassed biomass-to-electricity projects

Sunday Afternoon

Hands-on Learning for ARs and others
Gasifier fuel types and preparation methods
Power Pallet electronic control and self-diagnostic codes.

Offsite Authorized Representative dinner meeting: Saturday eve, 7pm

This is a special offsite dinner meeting for Authorized Representative candidates. The dinner will include a discussion about the program and networking opportunities among AR candidates.  Who should attend this meeting?  Current AR candidates or those interested in learning about the program in consideration of becoming an Authorized Representative.

Separate tickets are necessary for this event and the $75 fee includes dinner.
http://www.eventbrite.com/event/6812136283

General info on the Authorized Representative program is here: http://gekgasifier.com/2012/07/announcing-the-apl-authorized-representative-program/

General Info and Signup

If you want to join us in any capacity, you need to RSVP (and potentially pay) before the event.  You can do so via credit card here:
http://www.eventbrite.com/event/6812136283 or to sales@allpowerlabs.org.

Information on local accommodation, maps and airports is here:  http://www.gekgasifier.com/info/openhouse_workshops There is some camping space available onsite, but it seems to be getting more packed with each workshop.  Tell us soon if you need sleeping bag space.

If you’re coming from overseas, or an institution that requires an invite, we’ll help with visa letters and other travel support as we can.

GEK News - APL's 5th Anniversary, Upcoming Workshop, New Features and Fixes

The Power of 5 | New Fixes and FeaturesOn Site Service | Maker Faire | Woodgas Tesla | Dragon Wagon

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The Power of 5:  500 gasifiers, by our 5th anniversary

This summer marks our 5 year anniversary of exploring the wonders of gasification.  After 5 years of designing and doing, we’re approaching our 500th gasifier sale, and plan something special for the person who lands the 500th machine.  Mr or Ms Lucky 500th purchase will get a $5,000 rebate in cash or product credit.  Hey, you could actually come out cash positive on this proposition if you’re just getting a kit . . .  

The few rules are as follows:

  • The purchase has to be a gasifier kit or power pallet.  It can’t just be parts.
  • The purchase needs to happen between now and the end of June.  By June 30th we’re sure we’ll hit the 500th system purchase, so we shouldn’t tempt you beyond there.   It will likely happen much before then.
  • The definition of “purchase” is a sale initiated with payment.  From tomorrow forward we will count each new incoming order with payment as one sale towards the 500th and the $5,000 prize.

We’ll also celebrating our 5th anniversary with a big weekend workshop, August 9-11, here at APL in Berkeley, CA.  It has been much too long since the last one, and we’re putting together a big show to make up for the long wait.  More info will be provided in the next GEKnews, but plan for a multi-track weekend of science, learning and broad machinery circus.  We expect 100-150 people from around the world.  Please tell us if you plan to attend so we can reserve a space for you.  We can also help you with visa letters and local logistics.  More info on the workshop is here.

Our next monthly open house is this Friday, June 12th from 5-7pm.   We invite you to come see the current state of innovation and implementation at APL, washed down with gasifier-cooked pizza and cold drinks.  This round we’re having two local bands powered by biomass, and an EV charging station.

 

New Fixes and Features

We’re constantly evolving our products in response to in-house work as well as user feedback.  Here’s a list of some recent ones of interest:

Feature:  Fuel and filter media sifting meshes.  We’re now shipping the Power Pallet with 4 grades of screening mesh built in to the packing crate. The result? Take it out of the box, then use the box to sort your fuel and filter media. Easy.  No trip to the hardware store that may not exist, to get potentially the wrong mesh that will result in poor fuel sizing and run problems.  Why didn’t we think of this before?  

Fix:  New Condensate and cyclone jars.  Now more ruggedized and with easier to access cyclone jar attachment mechanism.

Fix:  Code update to governor for smoother start up, shut down, and better load tracking.  Intermittent engine backfires now resolved.

Fix:  New blower mounting and start up gas routing to prevent blower damage on start up errors.  One replacement blower also now included with each Power Pallet so you have a back up.

Feature:  New Product Support.  We’ve building out a larger Product Support department to better answer your questions and keep you up and running.  We now have three dedicated staff and more part timers in the department to keep our exchanges current.  We’re also churning out 1-2 new instructional videos a week. You can find the latest on how to Pack the Gas Filter, here.

Fix: Pressure Testing and Seals.  We’ve elaborated the pressure testing and seals of each Power Pallet to minimize chances of performance impacting leaks.  Additional replacement gaskets are now provided standard.

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On site set up service now available:

Pictured is APL’s Scott Garrison, who’s just back from a week in Haiti.  Power Pallets are showing up in all kinds of places, and since each has a different source of fuel and other local specifics, it’s often helpful to have an expert do the set up.  Many headaches can be avoided over small mistakes that lead to large problems, if you have some guidance at the beginning.

We now have enough product support staff to enable regular off site trips.  So we’re pleased to announce we can now offer this service on a more formal basis.

If you would like to have someone from APL come set up your system, and resolve the local details, please email sales@allpowerlabs.org

 

MF

Making a scene at Maker Faire:

The big local to do around here this time of year is Maker Faire; a sprawling do-fest of every kind of garage hacker/innovater/maker you can imagine. Words fail as to how to describe this creative baccanal–180,000 people packed in over two days, and this year was no exception.
 
Once again, we were given a prime location, and once again were absolutely mobbed, including dozens who stopped by to say they’ve been watching our progress for years and continue to be impressed by the improvements we’ve made. The Power Pallet drew quite a crowd ( OK, it may have been the gasifier-powered margaritas, cookies, and cell phone charging as well ).  A full hopper of walnut shells was all we needed–it ran nine hours non-stop on varying loads without needing refilling, and without our wranglers doing much more than standing around talking and looking good in our spiffy new tshirts.
 
Someone in the crowd was entertained enough to make this video, walking around our site and showing off the Power Pallet we just sold to the Climate Foundation. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hgSCdb70BQ
 

 

Wood-gas Tesla’s, Leafs, and Priiii.
 
As you’ll recall, at the April open house the locals got quite excited by the presence of an electric super star, in the form of a Telsa Roaster, which we promptly hooked up to a Power Pallet. ( See here a cheeky rock and roll video we threw together http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pOSPV5R_fIQ )
 
We’re pleased to announce that starting with this Open House we’ll be offering a “Free Fill Up Friday” for EV owners.  Got an electric car? Come down for a 100% guilt free tank up on carbon negative energy for your ride, and pizza and beer for you. There’s no charge for the fill up, and you’ll be making an important contribution to our life cycle analysis of miles per wood chip.

Teslaphoto 1

 

dragon wagon utah state - Google Search
Dragon Wagon: what happens when the Department of Defense gets
a little wood gas fever
 
Speaking of hot vehicles, we are happy to now be able to reveal something interesting done with one of our gasifiers, that until now we were under strict orders not to share with anyone outside the defense department. Meet the Dragon Wagon:
 
It was more than a little amusing to get these images of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff being shown around the Dragon Wagon, a mobile gasification energy generation platform developed by Utah State University.
 
Check out the assembled honchos of the US Defense Dept with Dr. Dallas Hanks of USU, in these photos: 

 

Job Opps in 2013, Open House this Friday, Winter in Minnesota

Job Opportunities at ALL Power Labs 

ALL Power Labs is preparing for a year of significant growth in 2013. As of the beginning of 2013, we have over 400 systems out in the world, in over 50 total countries.   Here’s an updated map of where most of them are.  By the end of 2013, we plan to add at least 200 new dots to the map . . .
 
   
 
 
Two hundred new dots will continue our pattern of doubling in size and shipped product each year.  To double again in 2013 we’ll need to hire on all fronts, so expect a regular series of job announcements.  We try to hire from within the community whenever possible, so do consider applying for these openings (or tell us about other positions you think you should have at APL). 
 
We’ve recently taken on a veteran COO, Alejandro Abelos, who previously led manufacturing expansions at PowerLight, SunPower, and Green Volts here in California.  He and the rest of the manufacturing group are now laying the groundwork to get us from current capacity of 10 Power Pallets a month, to around 25/month by the end of 2013– and continued doublings yearly beyond there.
 
We’re similarly building out a higher horsepower business group, to be led by an as of yet unfound CFO.  Details on this CFO search will come in the spring.  In the interim, we’re starting a search for the new position of Accounting Manager /  Controller.  This position will have central responsibility for the nuts and bolts of our daily financial management.   It requires a person who wants to be operationally and strategically active postion in the org, not a cave dwelling number cruncher.  It is not impossible the CFO might rise up from this position, so those with interest in the future role might still want to talk with us about the current position.  There is room for growth.  Details on the Accounting Manager / Controller position are findable here: http://gekgasifier.com/oldsite//2012/11/job-announcement-account-manager/
 
Customer Service and Product Support will also get full redo into a dedicated department(s) in the coming year.  The initial “hurrah!” of prototype engineering and early manufacturing has now given way to 100s of units in the field, and many people wanting support, parts, training and general logistical help for larger deployments.  We’re starting this with a dedicated Customer Service Manager postion.  The details of this position came through in a previous GEKnews, and are still findable here:  http://gekgasifier.com/oldsite//2012/12/job-announcement-customer-service-and-sales-support-manager/
 
Finally, this spring we’re setting in motion the next phase of 100kw Powertainer development, and plan to build several more units for continued refinement and testing through the end of 2013.  Ramping developing and production of these units is going to require multiple hires across mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, project management, and yet more manufacturing production mangers.  We can’t add all this on top of the existing GEK and Power Pallet production system.  We will need to build out a new group and potentially a second site to produce the larger Powertainers.  More info on this over the coming year.
 
 
Many of you have been watching our progress since the first experimenter’s kits in 2008.  We’re blessed so many of you have wanted to participate in this curious engineering adventure, and together prove biomass gasification an actually useful technology for repowering today’s planet.   We easily forget that only 5 years ago small-scale gasifiers were DIY rarities, or high dollar govt boondoggles.  Today we have 100s of new ones out in the world, and about 5 other companies newly formed with their own offerings of small scale gasifiers, and related web based info and collaboration.  This is all wonderful news for the general proposition.  
 
We’re not yet at the one million plus gasifiers and the 10s of manufacturing companies during WWII, but at least we do now have a growing new industry around this tech, and proof that it can be relevant beyond a DIY curiosity.  And much more is to come.  We’re only just getting started on the real deployment and scaling phase . . . 
 
 
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Open House this coming Friday at APL

 
Our next Open House at ALL Power Labs is this Friday, January 11th, from 5-7pm.  There will be food and drink, as well as other gasifier geeks gathered and talking shop for your entertainment. 
 
The Open House events offer all interested a regular time to visit APL, see a Power Pallet run, and generally tour the details of our operation.  Each Open House has a short talk introducing gasification and the Power Pallet biomass power generation system.  This will not be as in depth as our full workshop weekends, but it will get you through the fundamentals, and help you assess the relevance of our machines for your application.
 
People considering a purchase, or a larger deployment of our units, often use these events as an opportunity to visit and discuss specifics.  If you would like to go through a particularly large project proposition, please try to tell us ahead of time so we are sure to schedule adequate time for specifically you.
 
If you plan to join us in any manner this Friday, please RSVP ahead of time to “sales“.  If you are coming from out of town we can help you logistics.  Surprisingly, people fly in internationally just for the day quite frequently!
 
If you can’t make it this time, remember they happen monthly, the second friday of the month.  This puts the next Open House on Friday, Februrary 8th.  
 
 
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Winter in Minnesota

 
Multiple APL folk spent much of this winter in Morris, Minnesota testing the 100kw Powertainer.  We did a full characterization of gas composition, engine emissions, fuel consumption rates, and learned many interesting issues of cold weather operation.  Btw, did I mention it’s cold there?
 
We’ll soon post all the details on these runs, as well as what’s next for the Powertainer project.  In the interim, here’s a pix of local research conditions in Morris, MN, late December. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
More soon,
 
 
Jim