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Dick DeVos and the Green Machine

Dick DeVos: Green Machine recylces waste heat into electricity

Dick DeVos talks with Kirk Heinze on WJR

By Kirk Heinze

When an enormously successful entrepreneur like Dick DeVos publicly touts a new technology called “The Green Machine,” it underscores what we have been hearing from many of our guests on “Greening of the Great Lakes”:  Doing business that improves the environment does not have to be just altruistic; it also can make very good economic sense.

The Windquest Group, an investment management firm DeVos heads, has joined forces with Pro Services, a specialized trade contractor, to establish a new, Michigan-based energy solutions company, Pro Renewables, which will sell, install and service the Green Machine in several states east of the Mississippi River.

And what is this Green Machine?  According to DeVos, it uses thermoelectric principles and technology to convert waste heat into usable energy.  Whether we are talking about automobiles or industrial processes, we essentially waste about two-thirds of the fuels we burn—in the form of lost heat.  Consider, for example, the exhaust from your car or the heat generated by an industrial turbine.  However, if we can capture that heat and transform it back into electricity, we are, in essence, capturing what we already have at our fingertips and repurposing it in a more efficient, eco-friendly fashion.  Think about it.  By creating electricity from waste heat, we can concomitantly reduce the consumption of fossil fuels and decrease hazardous air emissions. (Interestingly, there is a group of Michigan State University researchers—the thermoelectric team—looking at the same phenomena.) 

Granted, we are still burning fossil fuels at the outset, and the longer-term goal must be, in my mind, to greatly reduce or even eliminate that dependency.  But, if we can achieve some immediate efficiencies in energy use while wind, solar, battery and other renewable energy sources are being developed—then why not.  And even with wind and solar technologies, we still have heat loss issues that may be mitigated by technologies like the Green Machine. 

The Green Machine, which DeVos says “can fit into a small, industrial elevator,” has a payback period of two-four years, depending on electric rates and financial incentives.  A demonstration unit has been installed at the Michigan Technical Education Center, Kalamazoo Valley Community College.  Potential customers include manufacturers and hospitals/universities with on-site power generation capabilities.  Check it out.

Click on the arrow above to hear my May 14 Greening of the Great Lakes conversation with DeVos.  Greening of the Great Lakes airs Friday evenings at 7 on News/Talk 760 WJR.

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