After multiple homes and an expansion of their offerings, the Akron startup is ready to leave its mark
As clean energy has grown more popular and necessary, the world has taken steps toward improving the efficiency and cleanliness of its energy sources. But it’s far from perfect. Large operations still produce a huge amount of unused heat and energy, while current clean energy sources often lack the equipment to store and conserve the excess that they don’t need. Can you imagine a world where all of that waste is converted into clean energy? That’s the future that Akron’s Echogen is working toward.
“Echogen is a technology development company focused on using wasted heat from sources of energy to make electricity with exhaust gas,” engineering manager Jason Miller said. “Think about exhaust from gas turbines, compressor stations or a big steel mill. They have huge furnaces that process steel. We want to capture that heat and make electricity from it. We’ve also moved into long-duration energy storage that will be important in the transition away from burning fossil fuels.”
A lot has changed in the five years since TechOhio last spoke to Echogen in 2016. The company has changed locations within Akron and has continued to test and market their products. But they’ve also added a major new component to their business. They’re developing technology that can store spare energy from facilities like solar or wind farms, maximizing efficiency and making those cleaner energy sources more reliable and dependable.
“Now we’ve moved into looking at energy storage, long duration energy storage,” said Miller. “If we ever want to get away from using fossil fuels and burning them, we need ways to store energy so that we can use wind and solar as the main power source. Echogen’s focus is on developing technologies that allow us to accomplish those goals.”
That emphasis on renewable energy and conservation is important to Miller and the Echogen team. It means the company is more than just a business venture, and serves to help create the world Miller and his colleagues can envision.
“We’re all about greener power generation,” he said. “All of our technologies are focused around using heat that’s being wasted now so that we don’t have to burn more fossil fuels. It will lead to a cleaner environment. On the energy storage side, our technology will allow for larger implementations of solar and wind power across the United States. Without these types of technologies, fossil fuels will continue to be burned, and I want to leave the environment to my children and grandchildren better than I had it.”
The concern for the environment may be a crucial part of Echogen’s mission, but it isn’t the only thing that makes them an exciting company. As the country — and the world — transitions toward greener energy, opportunities for adoption and expansion of Echogen’s work will only continue to increase. The company already has a licensing deal in place with Siemens to begin introducing their waste heat recovery systems in the oil and gas industry, and Miller expects demand to grow as other organizations follow suit.
“The potential is huge,” he said. “Even just in Ohio, there are places that are bringing renewable requirements in the books. They’re saying, ‘We’re going to generate this percent of our gigawatt hours from renewable energy,’ and the only way to do that is by using the kind of technologies we’re working on now. Echogen’s technology in particular is built on equipment that can be scaled to even hundreds of megawatts in size for huge, full-size power plants. So there’s a very high ceiling on what we can do.”
Miller believes Echogen can make a global impact from their Akron home. Born and raised in northeast Ohio and a graduate of the University of Akron, Miller is a major proponent of Ohio as a place to grow a startup. And from Echogen’s office to its workforce, he credits Ohio with helping foster the company’s evolution.
“For our company, Akron’s been great,” he said. “The City of Akron has helped us find the buildings we’ve been based in. Our current headquarters was even owned by the city of Akron for a while, and they provided this building to Echogen for very reasonable costs and allowed us to grow and stay. And being close to the university, we’ve been able to leverage Akron’s internship program. We have several full-time employees now from Akron and they’ve all worked out very well. Northeast Ohio is a really great place to live. Cost of living is very reasonable, we have great access to parks and we’re down the road from Cleveland. When people come here, they tend to enjoy it and love it.”