Renewable technology evaluation: Does it mean build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door? In renewables, maybe or maybe not. Renewable technologies are emerging worldwide as sources of energy, fuels, and chemicals. Investors are entertaining options for engagements with renewable chemicals and fuels manufacturing projects. So, why do many projects fail to make it from lab to commercial scale? Probably because this is a highly technical area and savvy investors and lenders don’t see the desired specific and independent third party scientific, financial, logistic, and environmental expertise which would give them a comfort level to invest or loan.
The core of any technology assessment is “does it work as advertised”? In this aspect the appraisal requires a deep dive into the science and engineering of the process or product. Important issues to be assessed include product yields, product quality, energy utilization, process flows, and materials and safety concerns. When the renewable technology passes scientific scrutiny, it needs to be evaluated for its financial feasibility. Are the products sufficiently valuable to justify the investment in site acquisition, plant construction, labor engagement, and permitting? Will the market respond favorably to the new product or process? Are subsidies, mandates, or other favorable conditions in play? Renewable technologies must be assessed objectively relative to their competition from conventional technologies as well; being green is rarely ‘good enough.’
Technology evaluations can take many forms, but they generally provide answers to key questions and allow innovators to:
- Assemble and articulate a compelling value proposition to potential customers;
- Identify the right partners, personnel and other resources to develop and commercialize technology;
- Understand and prepare for competition from incumbent and other emerging solutions; and
- Secure funding needed for development and initial deployment.
Renewable technologies must fit into the world’s infrastructure as they find it. Existing markets, feed provisions, utilities, pipelines, transport, and regulations are all to be considered when evaluating whether the logistics can be made to make sense. Renewables are often faced with the concern whether sufficient diffuse resources – wood, ag waste, CO2, even sunlight – are available within a suitable area to be economically brought together for processing. An advantage in environmental impact is often simply assumed for renewable processes due to their renewable nature. But air and water emissions, solid waste disposal, and utility requirements can raise new issues and challenge existing treatment procedures.
Assessment of a renewable technology is thus a many-faceted problem. The initial euphoria of discovery of a renewable technical solution must survive the rigors of intense, objective analysis to become a worthy endeavor, a valuable investment. Any of a number of items can become a major hurdle to limit development or provide a challenge to be overcome. Experienced scientists, engineers, economists, and financiers are all needed to properly and thoroughly evaluate the potential of a renewable technology. See Realities for Anaerobic Digestor Design.
Large renewable energy and biochemical consulting firms certainly have experts in the more common areas of bio and renewable fuels, biomaterials, biomass and biomass power, biomaterials, biochemicals and biotechnologies. But they also have expertise in a wide variety of specialty services like expert witness testimony, techno-economic analysis, due diligence, feasibility studies, budgeting, project management, technology assessment, insurance, due diligence, risk management, benchmarking, intellectual property, HAZOP, financial modeling, competitor analysis, and assistance with RIN and Low Carbon Fuel Standards (LCFS) matters. These firms should also be able to assist with other things like Aspen Plus®, logistics, bioreactor design, municipal solid waste remediation, syngas and bio-based product development, carbon credits, climate change analysis, environmental permitting, equipment sales, experimental validations, grant writing, IP strategy, life cycle analysis (LCA), plant operations, plant sales and auctions, and risk analysis (FMEA).
Lee Enterprises Consulting is the world’s premier bioeconomy consulting group, with over 100 highly qualified experts serving in all these areas. Take a look at our experts and the services we provide. Most of our experts are also available to advise and serve as expert witnesses in bioeconomy litigation matters. For the larger projects, we specialize in putting together full service, interdisciplinary teams with one point of contact. Call us at 1+ (501) 833-8511 or email us for more information.