North Dakota Patent of the Month – January 2022

Balancing energy demands with available power can be quite challenging. If the energy source has inconsistent or variable output (eg. wind power generators), this complexity only increases. North Dakota-based Steffes Corp. is a lean-operating original equipment manufacturer specializing in steel fabrication and electrical services for many industries.

Recently, they have designed a flow-based energy management system that can effectively estimate a charge level of an energy storage system. Based on the level estimated, an energy converter can add energy to the storage to maintain a certain threshold. Both flow and temperature sensors also send information to the system and control the energy converter based on predetermined thresholds. For instance, a wind power generator might generate electrical or heat energy that exceeds the current demand for energy use. When that happens, the system triggers the energy converter and begins storing the excess energy as heat in the energy storage. Energy storage could take shape as a water heater, where the excess energy is stored as heated water.

This solution can scale from homeowners to industrial buildings. By better managing energy storage and use, Steffes’ system improves the consistency in energy availability.

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