Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ready for Primetime?

Luke Evslin's insightful blog Ka Wae discusses Waste to Energy versus Zero Waste.  He said that after the County of Kauai issued a Request for Information, "the proposal that some elected officials seemed most excited about came from Pelatron Q for a waste to energy facility."

For the sake of making a well-informed decision, I do hope the right questions will be asked to assess the technology readiness of the Pelatron Q proposal.  I hope the County will think about how much risk, time and resources it would want to spend on any proposed technology that has not been validated for commercialization in a Request for Proposal solicitation.

Typically, agencies, business and research organizations that deal with technology research and development assess technology readiness through structured guideposts.  For example, here is the U.S. Department of Energy's Technology Readiness Assessment Guide.  Table 1 on page 9 is a good synopsis, outlining the various levels, 1 to 9, of technology readiness where Level 1 reflects basic technology research and level 9 indicates the actual system operated over the full range of expected mission conditions. In reviewing the Peltron Q website and its links to the Solena Q website, there is no indication that there are any Solena Plasma Gasification and Vitrification (SPGV) technology projects in commercial operation, just a list of a memorandum of agreement and projects in development.  With the limited information available on-line, it appears SPGV may not progressed beyond a Level 5 at the most.

Key decision makers must be prepared to address and assess risks of early adoption of new technologies and seek unbiased review of these technologies to better understand what side of a hype curve a technology falls.

In the Legislature, House Bill 1515 and Senate Bill 1047 which authorize the issuance of Special Purpose Revenue Bonds (SPRB) in the amount of $44 million for Pelatron Q have passed out of their respective energy committees and are on their way to House Finance and Senate Ways & Means. SPRB are municipal revenue bonds that can be issued by the State to provide financing for a qualifying project which serves the public interest.  SPRB are not State or public funds but funding from private investors.  The SPRB link above links to a frequently asked questions prepared by the Department of Budget & Finance.

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