Energy innovator picks Suffolk

Published 10:02 pm Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Les Hall and James Templeton, from Allfirst LLC, discuss with Dylan Energy president and CEO Martin Cain the new commercial boiler system the Suffolk company will manufacture for Dylan.

Suffolk could become the off-grid Silicon Valley after a local company won a contract to mass-produce a unit seen by its designer as an answer to the world’s energy needs.

Allfirst LLC’s Les Hall said his company in Northgate Commerce Park, currently with 85 workers, will initially add 10 to 15 new positions in order to produce eight prototype units.

The work is due to start in October. “After that, the sky’s the limit,” Hall said, adding the company will look for “more space, more equipment, more people,” once production of The Dylan, as the combined heat and power unit is dubbed, intensifies.

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The energy system has been developed by Maryland startup Dylan Energy, whose president and CEO is Martin Cain, a 35-year construction industry veteran.

Cain is bullish about The Dylan, believing it will spread through America and across the world, unburdening aging electricity grids, helping the environment and providing inexpensive electricity wherever it’s needed.

“You can throw wood into it, cardboard, just about anything,” he said at Allfirst’s plant on Northgate Commerce Parkway Tuesday, describing The Dylan’s fuel sources.

The company is preparing to start testing coal as fuel, he said, adding that he believes the coal industry — and “a lot of jobs right there” — would be saved.

By “holding all the energy inside before it hits the exhaust,” The Dylan saves 85-90 percent on utility costs and has extremely low Co2 emissions, according to Cain.

“We call it extreme heat preservation,” he said. “It’s not necessarily new technology, but it’s the most energy efficient unit to hit the market.”

Dylan Energy plans to have the units, which fit into containers, made to spec. Company spokesman Josh Lynch said a 400 square-foot unit would power 612 homes, and the Defense Department, for instance, could “parachute them into any place they need power immediately.”

In terms of immediate potential customers, Dylan Energy is working “with a lot of different companies, that’s all we can really say,” Cain said.

Tech companies — often criticized as huge energy consumers — are showing interest, he said, and “we will be able to put this into housing developments.”

“There is the ability to power our system with anything — the sky’s the limit,” he said. “Walmart might not have to buy propane … they might be able to shred their cardboard boxes and burn that, and all of a sudden not have any power bill whatsoever.

“Imagine going into schools and cutting electricity bills like we can? What will they do with that money? Better food, increasing education, purchasing more computers. I think our biggest problem is going to be keeping up with demand.”

Philadelphia’s Green Footprint Technology International plans to use The Dylan to power towns in The Republic of Gambia, and other African countries have shown interest, Cain said.

Hall said that for what is its first manufacturing contract, Allfirst will be looking for future square footage “in the tens of thousands,” saying, “our goal is to remain in Suffolk.”

“Imagine cranking out 13,000 of these a year?” Cain added. “That’s the goal with this mass manufacturing plant (and) it can bring back companies supplying components.”

The Dylan has been five years in the making, he said, and the recession was a major driver of the project.

“We laid off 160 people,” he said. “You’ve got to survive somehow (and) it seemed like that’s where the money was, in the energy sector.”

Cain said the startup has relied exclusively on private capital, but he would not divulge details on backers.

After the eight prototypes, the company plans an initial production rate of about 400 a year, he said, starting within the next 10 to 12 months.