By D. Lars Dolder, Chatham News + Record Staff
Energy is an imprecise science. Experts generally agree that about two-thirds of all electrical energy is wasted – from the point of generation of a power plant to a series of transformations, and finally out of your home, energy. is sacrificed here and there with blind abandon.
âThis is all considered ‘rejected energy’,â Alex West, vice president of operations and chief financial officer at 3DFS of Pittsboro, told News + Record. âOnly about 33% of the energy produced electrically is actually used and the rest is lost mainly through heat and vibration. “
3DFS hopes to change that. The little Pittsboro startup – which has been running for about 10 years, the last seven in a 10,000 square foot lab on NC Hwy. 902 – intends to upset the notion of acceptable waste from the energy industry. Its technology, software-defined electricity, has demonstrated its ability to radically improve energy transmission and retention. According to data from its website, 3DFS can demonstrate an efficiency of 94%, “which means that electrical energy has remained electricity and fully transferred energy to work …”
After a decade of developing and perfecting their invention, 3DFS scientists and engineers are ready to share it with the world. If the company’s ambitions come true, 3DFS will change electricity as we know it. As Apple and Microsoft revolutionized communication, as the Wright brothers and Ford revolutionized transportation, 3DFS is poised to revolutionize energy.
âNot everyone is our customer yet, but everyone is our end user,â West said. âElectricity is the largest interconnected machine that humanity has ever produced. It’s an oversimplification, but it’s basically a thread that ties us all together. We have this huge machine that lives, that breathes, and the goal is to be able to connect our technology on the end user side, the generation side, the transmission side, so that everything works in tandem to create a cleaner network to create a more power system. effective.
If all goes according to plan, 3DFS technology “will affect a vast majority of the population on this planet,” West said. The biggest hurdle, however, is explaining to potential customers how software-defined electricity actually works. The concept is still obscure and it is extremely complicated. Even new hires need about four months of dedicated training before they’re ready to contribute anything useful, West said.
The process (uber simplified) works in two stages. First, and perhaps most impressive, 3DFS software performs hyper-specific, real-time analysis of electricity in action. It extracts millions of data points from an electrical transmission in fractions of a second to create a model of exactly what is happening and where energy is wasted.
Second, after interpreting the data acquired in the first step, the software uses a complex series of algorithms to predict future inefficiency and preventively correct the signal, synchronizing the electric waves and virtually eliminating energy loss. The company name, 3DFS, refers to part of this process, but a more detailed explanation is “actually a secret,” West said. âIt’s part of what makes our technology work, but I’m going to have to let you guess on that. “
If this layman’s explanation is still hard to fathom, don’t feel bad, West says. Convincing potential customers that its technology is not science fiction is one of 3DFS ‘biggest challenges.
âIt’s so different, a completely different approach to how we approach the energy issue,â West said. âA lot of people, rightly so, are concerned with production on the other side, like natural gas and oil, wind, hydropower – sources of energy. And that’s great, we need this concern. But a much smaller number of people are worried about what happens now after we create electricity? “
But 3DFS is starting to make waves. In recent years, the company has gained wide recognition for its contributions to technology, and large energy users (think defense industry and big data, for example) are preparing to use its product. . In 2017, 3DFS won one of Popular Mechanics’ coveted Breakthrough Awards. Last year it was recognized by the UK Ministry of Defense in the Department’s annual publication on sustainable development. And the company has been featured in publications such as Forbes and Vox.
New interest has bolstered the company’s bottom line, and 3DFS is looking to expand aggressively. The staff of 15 was only five a year ago and hopes to reach 35 by the end of 2021. By the end of 2022, West expects the company to have reached 100. employees and moved to a larger facility, possibly to one of the Chatham sites. budding megasites. With a strengthened team, 3DFS predicts that average electricity users will experience the benefits of software-defined electricity over the next decade.
âWe want to integrate at the residential level and be able to put a device to help measure and correct power in real time for homeowners and apartment complexes, that sort of thing,â West said. “It’s probably a 10-year delay to get there, though.”
In addition to saving billions of dollars, which are now wasted to cover unused energy production, 3DFS technology will reduce carbon emissions, helping to tackle the global climate crisis. And the company’s executives take particular pride in creating large, well-paying jobs in rural North Carolina.
âNorth Carolinians are brilliant people, and they’re not all in Charlotte or Raleigh,â West said. âWe’re kind of hoping to be an industry that can provide some really good jobs outside of these metropolitan areas. I live in Chatham County. Most of our employees live in Chatham County. But it is increasingly difficult to find good jobs in rural areas. So we’re hoping to give people another option outside of the densely populated areas, and I think it’s exciting what we’ll be doing here in the years to come.
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The Chatham News + Record is Chatham County’s source for local news and journalism. The Chatham News, established in 1924, and the Chatham Record, founded in 1878, have come together to better serve the Chatham community under the name Chatham News + Record. Covering news, business, sports and more, News + Record strives to strengthen community ties through compelling coverage of life in Chatham County.