Battlefield-Tested, Houston’s FlexGen Now Targets Oil & Gas Market
There are few proving grounds as tough as U.S. military bases in Afghanistan or Iraq. And that’s where FlexGen Power Systems has piloted its generator technology, in conflict zones where access to efficient power is crucial.
Generators are used across the world, from small gas-fueled ones used by homeowners as a backup to unreliable electricity grids, to large multi-megawatt units in place to make sure large data centers can run uninterrupted.
“Our technology does to those generators, related to the ability to produce electricity, what batteries do to boost electric vehicles’ drive trains,” says Josh Prueher, founder and CEO of FlexGen. “It dramatically improves the fuel efficiency; we do that for generators.”
FlexGen’s technology consists of software and power electronics hardware that Prueher says efficiently and precisely controls the generator’s ability to store energy, such as in lithium ion batteries or ultra-capacitors, in electric power systems.
“The result is that products and systems that benefit from energy storage—renewables, electric vehicles, heavy machinery, microgrids—need significantly less of it, equating to lower cost, mass, and volume,” he says. “The payback period of this kind of an incremental investment is measured in months or, in the military, days.”
Now, Prueher wants to expand the company’s operations from the battlefield into the oil and gas market—which makes sense considering both are typically in remote locations, are difficult to navigate in, and have uncertain power sources. And as oil prices continue to hover at prices at half the $100 peak of last year, Prueher says he believes cost-cutting conscious energy firms will be attracted to FlexGen’s software.
“We can make such a significant difference [in reducing costs] that we’ve seen a dramatic increase of enthusiasm since the middle of last year,” he says.
Earlier this month, the company raised $25 million in a Series A round to further market and install its software in oilfield and power generation sites. Investors included Denver-based Altira Group, GE Ventures, and Caterpillar Ventures.
The Caterpillar and GE investments are especially key since both of the companies represent partners with immense distribution channels, Prueher says. “The relationship is all about channel development,” he explains. “Manufacturing and production is what we do well. Selling it to GE, Caterpillar, and other distributors gets us global distribution.”
Prueher is a Navy veteran who gave up his Wall Street career as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs to pursue the potential of FlexGen’s technology two years ago. “I don’t think we understood the magnitude of the efficiency we were going to save,” he says. “We recognized after the military success that there were a lot of markets that had the same power problems.”