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Full steam ahead: Industrial revolution returns

A French company has developed a way to generate energy that takes inspiration from a 200-year-old technology: Steam power.

Enertime's technology is based on thermodynamics, and its organic rankine cycle modules (ORC) are able to convert waste heat into clean electricity.


Dating from the late 18th century, when the steam engine was first developed, thermodynamics was used to power the machinery that made Britain a leading industrial power.

However, instead of using steam, Enertime's process makes use of what it describes as an "organic working fluid."

"Our machine is based on the thermodynamic closed cycle, where we evaporate the fluid using the heat," Gilles David, CEO of Enertime, told CNBC's Sustainable Energy.

"This evaporated fluid goes through a turbine, it spins the turbine, the turbine runs a generator, the generator produces electricity," David added.

The system developed by Enertime is set to help generate up to 5,000 megawatts per year from the waste heat of a foundry in western France.

"The factory will use the electricity produced by the machine," David said.

"That will replace electricity bought on the grid, and this electricity will be cheaper than the grid, so there will be a major saving for the industry," he added.

Enertime's technology can also be used in biomass plants, diesel power plants, in marine vessels and the geothermal energy sector.

A key advantage of the system is that it is essentially self-sufficient and can be left to its own devices.

"It is completely… (automatic), and remote controlled from our offices here, while the factory is around 200km away," David said.

"In some operations organic rankine cycles have been running for months without anybody checking," he added.