July 13, 2006

Getting Clean Energy In Homes

By: by Jessica Gaspar, Tonawanda News


Imagine powering a home with something the size of a photograph.

In five years, homeowners in the United States could be doing just that.

ENrG Inc., a Buffalo-based technology firm, is opening a brand-new ceramic coating facility Thursday on Kenmore Avenue in the Town of Tonawanda. The new 4,300 square-foot facility will create photograph-sized ceramics, a type of solid oxide fuel cells which will be used to combine hydrogen and oxygen to create electricity, heat and water.

“Our company develops and manufactures ceramic components for clean energy systems,” said John Olenick, president of ENrG.
About 40 ceramics will produce one kilowatt of energy.

Currently, each home in the United States uses about five kilowatts of energy per month, Olenick said. This technology is still being explored and should be available to homeowners within the next three to five years.

“(A solid oxide fuel cell) is a combination of hydrogen and oxygen across a membrane to create electricity, heat and water,” Olenick said.

This type of technology is similar to how a car battery works, Olenick said. It will be available for vehicles in coming years but will take longer to develop, he said.

Rather than receiving heat and electricity from two different sources, it will be possible for the two utilities to come from one source. This technology differs from current power plants because it’s cleaner and doesn’t emit carbon into the air, Olenick said.

ENrG currently employs 14 people and was started about four years ago by Olenick, his wife, Kathy, Tim Silverblatt and three others.

In 2004, ENrG was awarded $3.3 million from the National Institute of Standards and Technology to continue the research and development of fuel cell technology, Kathy Olenick said. The company also received $500,000 from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

ENrG invested $1.1 million in the new facility, which is located where a former bus barn was located, John Olenick said.

About $900,000 was put towards the new machines which will create the ceramics, Kathy Olenick said.

The construction of the new facility started in January and took about two to three months to complete.

Because some of th
e machines are so big, the construction had to be staggered.

The inspection machine was so large, rooms leading to the machine’s location were left unfinished so when the machine was dragged in it wouldn’t damage the floors.

The facility is considered a Class 10,000 facility, meaning the facility is three times cleaner than an operating room, Olenick said. The average operating room is a Class 28,000 facility.

“If one particle gets in contact with something, it will destroy the electrochemical,” John Olenick said.

If any dirt or object touches the ceramic, it will destroy the overall life of the technology. Employees call the room where production takes place the “clean room.”

Before entering the clean room, workers must suit up in a gown, gloves, hair covers and shoe covers.

This avoids any dirt or particles from entering the room, Kathy Olenick said.

The ceramics are made by taking wet ink and putting it on a piece of ceramic. Once the ink is dispensed onto the ceramic, it goes through a printing process then a drying and firing process.
“(The firing) makes it so the ink bonds to the ceramic substrate,” she said.

This final step ensures the ink is permanently adhered to the ceramic and won’t come off, Kathy Olenick said.

Contact Jessica Gaspar at 693-1000 Ext. 158