Kevin Robert, CEO of M-Trigen, talks about their power generation technology.
Please excuse any typos in this hasty transcript.
Matt Register: Welcome back to the show, Texas Business Radio. Texasbusinessradio.com is the website. 844-814-8144 is our 24 hour call-in line. 24 hours. That means call in now. Call in at three o’clock in the morning. I really don’t care. We’re gonna get the experts on here to get those questions answered. I’m your host, Matt Register. Jay Curry normally sitting over there in the cohost chair. He’s gonna join us here in a little while.
In the meantime, we’re talking about energy and how in the world do you get those energy costs under control in your business. We have a very interesting product, and we have the Chairman and CEO here in the studio. M-TriGen is a company that manufactures units that does a lot of stuff. Replaces your air conditioner. Replaces back up generation. It provides power. It does a whole lot of stuff. Kevin Robert, Chairman and CEO of M-TriGen. Kevin, welcome to the show.
Kevin Robert: Thank you very much, Matt. Good to be here.
Matt Register: M-TriGen. Tell our listeners what that is, because it’s a fascinating product that solves a lot of problems for a lot of people, right?
Kevin Robert: First of all, it’s micro trigeneration, and it’s a personal mircrogrid. It is an appliance that can produce electricity. It can produce the cooling that you need for a small home or a business. It can store power. If you have solar or some kind of renewable, it can allow that to work all the time. It can produce heat that you can use to heat a swimming pool, heat your air, heat hot water. Essentially, it’s like your personal microgrid. It’s a gateway device that essentially allows you to be grid independent and generate savings from not using electricity off the grid, but instead, generating your own.
Matt Register: We were talking during the break, and I’m fascinated by this, because there is nothing in here that is not already commercially available, but putting it all together is the secret sauce here. It replaces your air conditioner. It replaces, essentially, your reliance on the power gird. Now, you still are connected to the power gird as a backup. Is that correct?
Kevin Robert: That’s right. We use a natural gas or propane driven internal combustion engine, an engine that’s been manufactured for decades, and it is direct coupled to your air conditioning compressor. When you turn the thermostat on and call for comfort cooling, the engine kicks on. It drives your AC compressor instead of with electricity, and using natural gas or propane to do that is typically a third of the cost of buying electricity off the grid. Simultaneously, while it is producing cooling, it’ll charge. It’s got an alternator, so it will produce DC and AC power, and it produces thermal delta, which we use to recycle heat, and use it to heat hot water, or heat air for comfort heating. You go from there. It’s almost like bringing the cell phone of the energy distribution business to your hand, because you can now locally manage and distribute power coming and going. You can sell back to the grid, and all along, it’s gonna improve efficiency from the whole process by at least 50%.
Matt Register: No kidding. It does solve a lot of problems for a lot of people. Talk to me about business owners. Why does a business owner need this type of a product? What kind of gains are they expecting to see as far as cost savings or more efficiency, or what kind of gains should they expect?
Kevin Robert: If you think about a business, say like a small restaurant, or a car dealership where the lights are on 24 hours a day. You’re just consuming power all the time. As you burn that electricity, it’s causing a remote power plant 50, 100 miles away just to continue to generate more and more electricity. You have about a 65% efficiency loss for the transportation of that electricity to the grid, so you’re paying for that as a small business through your use. If you can improve the efficiency, you’re lowering the emissions that you get, because now you’re dealing with a much smaller portion of emissions than generating out in a plant. When you look at the cooling load that you may incur on a small business, or a large home, which especially on a small business, is most of the time, you can imagine, a small restaurant doesn’t probably turn the heater on very much. What we’re doing is replacing the electricity that you would generally use to cool a facility with natural gas usage, which is plentifully available.
Matt Register: And cheap.
Kevin Robert: And cheaper. And it’s gonna stay cheap. That’s the biggest economic advantage. Not to mention, if you’ve got a data center, or you’ve got something critical that if your power goes out, you start losing customers or losing food. We can drive refrigeration. Data centers that have to have communications all the time, like cell phone towers, things like that. You don’t suffer the downtime like we’ve just had with Harvey and Irma, and some of these storms.
Matt Register: Interestingly enough, we had somebody on here talking about backup power generation, and the lack of maintenance sometimes that happens on them. This is a system that’s running regularly all the time, right?
Kevin Robert: Correct.
Matt Register: And it’s not something that you’re gonna find out that hurricane comes, you haven’t done maintenance, it doesn’t work, right?
Kevin Robert: Correct. That’s right. The system is quiet. Quieter than your current AC condenser compressor that’s outside. It’s essentially your primary source of power. As your thermostat calls for comfort cooling or comfort heating, this kicks on and off just like your air conditioner does.
Matt Register: This is the primary source. Your backup source is the actual grid, right?
Kevin Robert: That’s correct.
Matt Register: Interesting. Very interesting. You’re talking to new construction homes. You’re talking to commercial applications. Who are the guys who need to pick up the phone right now and give you guys a ring?
Kevin Robert: I’d say if you’ve got a small business with a high electricity bill, and you have a high risk of damage to your business due to power outage, that’s the primary customer right there. We all hate to be inconvenienced when power’s out, but if you’re running a grocery store, or a small restaurant, or something that immediate has a negative economic impact because now you’re defrosting frozen meat, or you can’t keep the beer cool, then it’s a big hit.
Matt Register: Understand. Makes a whole lot of sense. This is a fairly new company.
Kevin Robert: Yep. Started in 2011. The concept started in ’06. The founder of the company, a gentleman named Donald Williams, basically from 11 til 16 was developing the technology, getting it patented, getting the prototypes figured out. We’ve been making units now since 2016, but more for prototype and testing, and fuel trials.
Matt Register: Proving the concept.
Kevin Robert: Proving the concept. Late last year, in fact, in November, we moved to a facility off the west belt that we can begin to produce large scale volumes now, and bring the product to the public.
Matt Register: Now talk to me about the high end of what you guys can do. You’re very, very efficient on the lower end, a five ton air conditioner unit sized stuff, but you can scale these things up very easily.
Kevin Robert: That’s correct. We can network these together just like you would a local area network with computers. We call it a local energy network. We’ve got one facility where we’ve taken 24 of our units, we’ve daisy chained them together, integrated it with a 144 kilowatts of solar, and when you look at the total energy that we’re able to displace off the grid, it’s about a megawatt between cooling, power generation, and the ability to accept the solar working all the time.
Matt Register: Wow. That’s interesting. Talk to me about some of the government subsidies, tax breaks, things like that. I know we talked briefly during the break that it’s kind of state to state.
Kevin Robert: First of all, our technology doesn’t require any tax subsidies or breaks to be economic. On a small business, you should be expecting a payout in the three year range. There’s a lot of parts of the country, New England, west coast, even some in the southeast, where there’s some pretty compelling government subsidies, either through investment tax credits, or funding that actually the natural gas utility can provide to the consumer to provide the equipment through, sometimes a zero interest loan over ten years, things like that. Depending on where you are in the country, you might have a compelling reason to do this in addition to just the basic business reason from a tax standpoint.
Matt Register: Interesting. You guys are currently going through an equity raise. You’re building up your manufacturing.
Kevin Robert: Correct.
Matt Register: When are you looking at being fully online with some of this manufacturing?
Kevin Robert: This April and May. Kind of the April, June timeframe we should be up and running. We have two basic products. One’s called a PowerAire, which is more suited to a home over 4500 square feet, or a commercial installation. We’ve got another product called GasAire, which can go down to about a 2500 square foot home.
Matt Register: Interesting. The smaller, the difference in the two, being the batteries, and being able to sell back to the grid, and that kind of thing, right?
Kevin Robert: Correct. Think of us as we have a mainframe computer that you can add more capacity to it or take capacity away. We have the ability, like a cell phone, to have a number of applications of the technology. If you want to sell back to the grid, well that’s a module. If you want to do something else, you can customize it, but it comes in a basic platform.
Matt Register: Mtrigen.com is the website. Kevin, thank you very much for joining us. Kevin Robert, Chairman and CEO of M-TriGen. We’re gonna have it linked right there from texasbusinessradio.com. We’re out of time. Now, we’ve got to pay a couple of our own bills. We’ll be back right after this with a whole lot more Texas Business Radio. Don’t go anywhere.
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In addition to hosting "Texas Business Radio," Matt is an investment banker and serial entrepreneur from Montgomery, Texas. He is the owner of RREA Media and Register Real Estate Advisors and a Managing Director and Principal at Corporate Finance Associates. He has a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from Rice University in Houston. You can read more about Matt HERE.