Environment

RECYCLING waste electricity 

ENVIRONMENT WATCH

BY KIMONE THOMPSON Associate editor — features thompsonk@jamaicasobserver.com ?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013    

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THE need for lower electricity bills and a cheaper alternative to solar.

Those, primarily, were what led Mark Neita and business partner Dr Matthew Bird to the green box technology and to found Green Box Jamaica.

As the name suggests, the product is a box of capacitors designed to reduce one’s energy consumption, thus making it ‘green’. It works by capturing unused electricity and reintroducing it into the system as required. This smooths out the peaks and valleys of electricity supply, resulting in more even distribution, reduced energy usage and, critically, lower electricity bills.

Demonstrating the concept, Neita, whose office is on Beechwood Avenue in the Kingston 5 area, plugged an A/C motor into the wall unit. A kilowatt meter attached to it showed that the total electricity coming from the grid was 345 kW. He then flipped a switch, turning the green box on. A second kilowatt meter, this one connected to the green box, showed a reading of 289 kWh.

“(Jamaica Public Service) is providing us with 345kW of electricity, but this motor set up efficiently, needs only 289/290 Watts so JPS is providing us with more electricity than we need and we’re paying for it because we pay for what JPS supplies and not what we demand,” he explained.

“...So, what we need to do is somehow tell JPS to supply us with less. The only way to do that is to have a machine like this that is actually recycling the waste energy 50 times per second back to the motor,” Neita added.

The minute the green box was turned on, the reading on the first kilowatt meter — the one attached to the A/C motor — fell to 314 kW.

“And this number will continue to fall the longer you keep (the green box) on. It will try to reach 289... All that this is doing is recycling the electricity you were wasting before 50 times per second back to the motor,” Neita told the Jamaica Observer.

“This is about people reclaiming control over their monthly expenses,” public relations officer Jordan Hamilton added.

Recycling wasted or unused energy is a concept well acknowledged in energy engineering circles and widely practised in varying ways in commercial and industrial operations. In the United States, for example, where only 33 per cent of power plants are efficient, according to 30-plus-year-old power developers Recycled Energy Development (RED), plants recycling a combination of waste heat and power into clean electricity and useful steam are between 67 per cent and 90 per cent efficient.

“Energy recycling could save the United States an estimated US$70-150 billion a year on energy costs by generating heat and power more efficiently,” RED says on its website.

In another example, RED says Denmark — the global model for energy efficiency and clean power — obtains over half of its energy from heat and energy recycling systems.

Industrial examples aside, Neita and Bird, both 27, want to capture Jamaica’s household market and envision doing so within a year. Indications so far suggest that they are well on their way.

“So far response and demand have been very good,” Neita told the Observer.

The company, which was launched in May and employs 14, has already sold over 100 units and registered more than 1,000 page views on its website in a single week, he said.

Their motivation, as Neita explained, was initially tied to the bottom line, but the environmental spin-offs have been a welcome plus.

“I lived in the States for six years and I’ve been back for just over a year now. When I got back I realised that the biggest problem was electricity. I kind of went searching for it as a solution for my family at first and realised that it would really and truly benefit the whole country. I knew there were going to be alternatives out there other than solar that would be more affordable for the average person and I looked for that product,” he said.

With an outdated electricity grid, a fact acknowledged by the national electricity provider, and the demand for energy surging past the company’s ability to supply it, Greenbox offers a more efficient use of energy which benefits the consumer by allowing him to save money and the environment by reducing carbon footprints.

“Green Box Jamaica will be able to decrease a property’s electricity bill by improving variables such as power factor and correcting inefficiencies in outdated appliances and machinery,” the company says on its website.

Among the benefits it lists are:

• Reducing the electricity consumption of homes and businesses;

• Providing affordable energyefficient solutions;

• Lowering the operating costs of air-conditioning units;

• Protecting electrical equipment from electrical surges and spikes;

• Increasing the useful life of appliances

• Improving power factor of properties.

Green box can be used with any household or commercial appliance/equipment and may be connected to a breaker panel or directly to big machines. According to Neita, the product is maintenance-free and has a “no questions asked” 20-year replacement warranty.

“Once you install it, that’s it,” Neita boasted.

Residential units can each be had for $39,000, while commercial units start at $65,000, they said.

Other than the capacitors, Green Box Jamaica offers an energysaving solution for air-conditioning units called aircosaver. It purports to convert non-inverter air conditioning units to the efficiency of an inverter unit by adding inverter intelligence.

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