What if there was a new, more economical and environmentally safe way to heat, cool, and power resorts, hospitals, college campuses, or even entire nations?
Joseph Jingoli & Son, Inc. and DCO Energy, LLC (Jingoli-DCO) say there is. The companies’ New Jersey-based partnership is a $422 million enterprise, and it’s building a $100 million sea-water district cooling facility—the largest of its kind in the world—that will pull water from 3,600 feet beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean to air-condition a six-hotel complex in Nassau, Bahamas.
As new energy technologies emerge, the companies such as Jingoli-DCO that harness their potential are the ones that stand to reap handsome profits. The work in this new frontier is exciting, competitive, and rewarding, but the stakeholders still want to make sure their money is being spent wisely. So, as Jingoli-DCO’s general counsel, Glenn Clouser wades through the unproven technologies to determine their “finance-ability” and profitability.
An environmental lawyer by trade, Clouser came in-house for Jingoli-DCO six years ago. The fourth-generation construction company made a name for itself in underground-utility work, but it has seen its biggest growth come from energy projects. The two Jingoli brothers and Frank DiCola, a veteran utility senior executive, recognized the future of renewable-energy projects and formed the Jingoli-DCO partnership more than a decade ago. The company typically builds, owns, and operates large facilities such as central utility plants, but it has also completed construction of some of the largest gas-to-energy landfill projects in the country.
Clouser says the company prefers to “do everything, from A to Z”—from design and finance to construction and operation. “We’ve expanded beyond the traditional role of the builder and have gotten more entrepreneurial,” he says, noting that Jingoli-DCO’s model is particularly attractive to universities, hospitals, casinos, and other facilities that don’t want to be in the business of operating power plants.
“We’ve expanded beyond the traditional role of the builder and have gotten more entrepreneurial [with renewable-energy projects].”
New technologies, tax benefits, and other legislative incentives are making renewable-energy projects more viable than ever before. “The climate is fertile, and new companies are entering the space,” Clouser says. As solar, wind, deep-water, fuel-cell, and other projects emerge, it’s his job to work closely with a finely tuned business-development team to analyze each opportunity. Groups and individuals often approach Jingoli-DCO with great ideas—but without the ability to build or finance them. Clouser steps in to set up a framework of approach for each project, complete with letters of intent, contracts, and agreements.
The sea-water district cooling facility is one of the company’s latest experiments. After a successful pilot project in Hawaii, the Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation found a development opportunity in the Bahamas and contacted Jingoli-DCO to assist with design, financing, construction, and operation. Because the firm is looking to develop a portfolio of assets instead of simply operating as a construction company, Clouser’s team entertained the idea. “The technology was there, the economics were good, and it fit our business model,” he says. The team quickly got to work.
The project, slated for completion in 2014, pulls water from a deep drop in the ocean floor, where, untouched by the sun, it remains at its coolest temperatures. The chilled water is then pumped through a closed-loop system to cool six resort hotels and expansive casino and corporate meeting spaces. The technology is projected to reduce air-conditioning costs by 80 to 90 percent annually. “It’s a win economically, and it’s a win environmentally,” Clouser says.
However, the elaborate plant is not free of challenges. Jingoli-DCO must find ways to transport huge volumes of water several miles off the coast and nearly 4,000 feet deep through a pipe just five feet in diameter. The company is employing highly qualified ocean engineers to design its system, and it will source plastic piping from Europe that can reach lengths of up to 500 meters and last for decades in ocean water—far better than traditional piping. The piping is constructed in a factory along the coast and transported across the Atlantic to its destination without ever touching land.
Twelve hundred miles north lies the Hartford Hospital, where Jingoli-DCO is working on fuel-cell technology that will supply heat and steam. Currently, the batteries last several years—a lifetime that Clouser expects to increase in the near future. While Jingoli-DCO waits for the technology and economics to advance, though, it isn’t sitting idly on the project. Last year, the company acquired the Hartford Steam Company, which heats and cools Hartford Hospital as well as many other Hartford buildings. “We wanted to improve the existing facilities and knew we could make its happy customers even happier,” Clouser says. Jingoli-DCO is looking to introduce fuel-cell technology that offers clients more options without burning fuels that create exhaust. The clean chemical reactions can produce up to several megawatts of energy, and they occur in units small enough to fit on hospital or college campuses.
Lastly, the company is investigating ocean-thermal-energy conversion. Although the technology is still in development, Jingoli-DCO has a partner with letters of intent for two 10-megawatt plants for a major utility company in the Bahamas. The process uses 80-degree surface water to boil liquid ammonia, creating steam that runs a generator and produces electricity. Then, subsurface cold water converts the steam back to liquid.
While it might be a few years away, it’s a business in which Jingoli-DCO wants to play. For now, it’ll keep an eye on the technology—and others that emerge along with it.