Wednesday 20 September 2017

A pioneering Irish firm will make the world a better, warmer place

Why we should be singing the praises of Exergyn

GAME-CHANGER: ‘This will go all around the world,’ says Alan Healy, CEO of the ground-breaking Energyn technology company. Photo: Fergal Phillips
GAME-CHANGER: ‘This will go all around the world,’ says Alan Healy, CEO of the ground-breaking Energyn technology company. Photo: Fergal Phillips
Louise McBride

Louise McBride

By 2096, climate change will have changed the Earth into a planet of floating cities - if the vision of the future portrayed in the children's book, Tommy Storm, comes true. The grandchildren of today's children will be alive then - and this is the reason that its author, Alan Healy, set his book in that year.

Though more than 80 years away, Mr Healy believes the actions taken by those living today will have a bearing on what the Earth will look like in 2096. "When doing readings of my book in schools, I told children that this could be the planet that you'll bequeath to your grandchildren," says Mr Healy.

Tommy Storm, which was written in 2002 and self-published by Mr Healy in 2006, ties in with the Dubliner's ambition to make the world a better place. Another was his decision to set up Exergyn, along with Barry Cullen and Kevin O'Toole, about three years ago.

Exergyn has developed a technology which turns hot water into electricity. As this hot water would otherwise be wasted, this technology could knock tens - or even hundreds - of thousands of euro off the energy bills of large companies. It will also save energy and help protect the environment - which is ultimately what Mr Healy and his fellow co-founders aspire to.

Mr Healy has tried his hand at many things over his working life - from investment banking in Goldman Sachs, London to setting up a brick factory in a township in South Africa, to business consulting,to writing Tommy Storm.

"This time with Exergyn is the longest I've been with the one company," he says.

It was an incident in South Africa - where he stayed for two years shortly after Nelson Mandela came to power - which Mr Healy believes led him to where he is today. "I was held up and a guy was punching a gun in my stomach, saying he was going to kill me," says Mr Healy.

"Things like that focus the mind. I feel very strongly about making the planet a better place. However, rather than do so in touchy-feely way, I know the only way to change people's behaviour is if you make a difference to their pocket."

Mr Healy met his business partners, Mr Cullen and Mr O'Toole, when he asked them to help him develop a variation of a three-prong plug. "I had come up with a concept for the plug, but I needed some engineers who could work with me on it," says Mr Healy. "I found Barry and Kevin and we found that we worked well together. They themselves were working at the idea behind Exergyn at the time, but it was at a very early stage."

Mr Cullen and Mr O'Toole mentioned their idea to Mr Healy and it wasn't long before all three decided to set up Exergyn and develop the technology so it could be used in business.

So how exactly does the technology work? "If you think about your car, for every €100 of fuel that goes in, you only get about €30 to €40 worth of power," says Mr O'Toole. "The rest is wasted - it goes out the radiator and exhaust."

The Exergyn technology is not geared towards cars - rather it is suited to industrial applications, such as biogas, combined heat and power, centralised power, and cargo shipping.

"There's enough waste heat produced each year to bring the Mediterranean to the boil," says Mr Healy. "There's a lot of companies out there using big engines that have big radiators. Big companies are wasting heat - but we are able to convert some of the heat into power.

"We can turn hot waste water into electricity. We'll give companies an extra energy boost without generating any carbon dioxide, any emissions, any hazardous materials or noise."

Exergyn's technology will give companies an extra 6pc energy - without the company having to pay for fuel to generate that energy, according to Mr Healy. So the technology could knock 6pc off a company's energy bill a year. "That's a big figure if the business is a big energy user," says Mr Healy.

"The people we are talking to are very excited about the technology. The response from companies is overwhelmingly positive. Our initial market is the biogas market in Britain. That's where they create gas from effluent and certain crops. We will enable them to get a bit more electricity out of that."

Exergyn is currently doing industrial trials of its technology and will also do commercial trials this year. "We hope to have low-value production of the technology in 2016," says Mr Healy.

So could we see the Exergyn technology being used to power cars? "Potentially," said Mr Healy. "But cars may well go in a more electric way. The great thing about our device is that we can retrofit it when it's used by big companies. You can't retrofit it with a car."

Mr Healy believes the demand for Exergyn's technology will increase in the future. "There will be more legislation asking people to stop waste and to be more energy efficient," says Mr Healy. "We are all trying to be green. If you can save what you are wasting, that's a good step."

The company, which is based on Dublin City University's innovation campus, employs nine full-time staff. "We're already probably in the top 10 indigenous Irish companies in terms of intellectual property profile," he says.

By late 2014, the trio had raised €1.4m and hope to raise additional funds this year. "We need between €10m and €11m to be able to do something huge," says Mr Healy. "By international standards, that kind of money is a drop in the ocean."

Exergyn believes that the market for its technology could run into hundreds of billions of euro worldwide - and at least €8bn in Europe. "This will go all around the world," says Mr Healy.

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