Progress on Energy in the Region
Solar Power Industries adding 1,500 workers
Solar Power Industries Inc., a Rostraver company that manufactures solar cells, announced on October 23,2008 that it plans to hire up to 1,500 employees by 2011. A story in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review quoted Robert L. Lazzari, vice president-resource management for Solar Power Industries, as saying "It's a great story for our company and the region." Solar Power Industries is building two 30,000-square-foot buildings next to its headquarters in Rostraver so it can start hiring more employees, Lazzari said. "We currently have about 200 workers at Rostraver, and I will need between 150 and 200 people in each one of those new buildings," he said. "By mid-next year I need a total of 500 people because of the business we are getting. We have long-term contracts that are just waiting for us to expand our production capabilities." In February, the state announced $5.1 million in grants and loans for the company, which pledged to create 396 jobs within three years. In addition to business in the United States, Solar Power is getting orders from Germany, Spain and China, Lazzari said. "We make solar panels that go on buildings, and we also make shingles that can go into homes," he said. In 2007, Solar Power announced a partnership agreement with Open Energy Corp., a California renewable energy company, to develop a solar roof able to convert sunlight to electricity and run devices within a home. The federal Energy Information Administration projects that renewable energy should grow significantly, said EIA analyst Chris Namovicz. Through July, solar power production in the United States stood at about 80 trillion BTUs, compared to 72 trillion in the same period of 2007, he said.
Thar Technologies - an Emerging Leader in Energy
In 1990, Dr. Lalit Chordia, a graduate of Carnegie-Mellon University, founded Thar Technologies, Inc. with the purpose of commercializing supercritical fluid technology. A supercritical fluid is any substance, typically carbon dioxide or water, that when taken above a particular temperature and pressure can move through solids like a gas and dissolve materials like a liquid. Because of these properties, supercritical fluids can be used as a substitute for organic solvents in a wide variety of industrial and laboratory applications, often lowering dramatically the environmental impact and raising the quality of output of a process.
Dr. Chordia's goal is for Thar Technologies, Inc. to be the global leader in supercritical fluid technology and equipment and recently he took a major step forward toward that end. Thar is the recipient of a nearly $2 million development grant from the Advanced Technology Program of the National Institute of Science and Technology for the construction of a 1:300 scale pilot plant for low environmental impact, low cost production of biodiesel.
The production of biodiesel involves a two-step process: extraction of oil from biomass followed by esterification to biodiesel. The extraction phase is generally accomplished using the solvent hexane, a known carcinogen. Thar's approach uses supercritical carbon dioxide in an environmentally benign process to produce diesel-grade fuel from plants without hexane. In addition, the process integrates oil extraction and esterification of the oil into biodiesel in one continuous, efficient process. Inefficient processes and hexane pollution are currently inhibiting biodiesel from becoming a serious alternative to conventional petroleum diesel fuel. Thar estimates the cost savings at $1/gal (as 100% biodiesel) compared to current methods, resulting in a product that is cost competitive with petroleum diesel without government subsidy. Thar plans to have a biodiesel production facility operating in the region by 2010.
But that is only the beginning of the application of Thar's supercritical fluid technology to the energy industry.
- Thar is exploring using supercritical fluid as a refrigerant and is in talks with Westinghouse about using it to replace water in nuclear reactors
- Thar has a process that can cost-effectively extract oil from oil shale and oil sand
- The company also has a technology that can extract hydrocarbons from low rank coal, opening the door to better utilization of that energy source.
Now that Thar has engineered the supercritical fluid technology platform, it can be applied to a wide variety of substrates, opening the door to limitless applications. Thar Technologies will undoubtedly emerge as a major force in not only the regional energy industry, but in the world.
Comments? Suggestions for changes or additions?
>>Send an email to Comments@3RiversCleanEnergy.com
©2008 3 Rivers Clean Energy, Janet S. Lauer Consulting. All rights reserved.