The Hybridyne Story
The Hybridyne concept started, as stereotyped as it sounds, with two friends sitting at a restaurant table chatting about the future, and how they could contribute to it.
Thomas Cleland is a 30 year veteran of the Canadian High Tech Business landscape and has been involved in the successful development of several leading edge technology companies over the years. Even during his youth, Thomas had an interest in PhotoVoltaics. In 1969 he became a regional science-fair finalist by using a small PV cell ( 1 square inch) purchased from the US through an ad in "Popular Science Magazine" to operate a DC battery powered lighting system that he had designed in a mock-model home. This use, though probably already contemplated by industry at the time, is believed to predate commercial availability of photo-cells as PV day-night equipment actuation device.
Educated for the most part in Canada starting with Natural Sciences and Electrical Engineering studies at McMaster University in Hamilton Ontario, Thomas is also a Canadian Inter-provincially Licensed Industrial Electrician, Certified Electronics Technician, Certified Electronics Engineering Technologist, with many of the early years spent gaining invaluable field experience in high tech electrical/electronics design and maintenance.
His good friend, Les Mac, has a Masters degree in power electronics from the University of Warsaw, and has worked in high availability power in the data center and power quality industry in Canada since 1985.
Les and Thomas met in 1999 when Thomas was working with one of the world’s largest Critical Network Power companies, as a business development and applications engineer in power quality and UPS power backup systems. For the next few years, Les was Thomas’ client, and occasionally they were even competitors in the field of Power Electronics, but the relationship ripened into a mutual admiration and friendship that has lasted 11 years.
On one particular day in June 2003, Thomas and Les were having lunch on an outdoor patio in Richmond Hill, discussing the power backup systems ( UPS’s ) that they were both installing in multiple locations around the GTA, and wondering if it would be possible to recharge the batteries with Renewable Energy. The key of course was to do this with the same level of reliability and certainty of supply that they had both striven for in the data-center and critical power industry. Renewables were a relatively new idea at that time in Canada, and were not normally used at the local building level. To be sure, there were large wind farms and solar arrays feeding the grid ( some within, but mostly outside Canada ), but nothing that could be called distributed generation in Canada. With their significant experience ( both theoretically and practically ) in high availability electricity and power electronics, they realized that there was a disconnect in the renewable energy industry at the time.
Wind turbine proponents and solar array proponents regarded themselves as being in different industries and often somehow in competition. The one thing they had in common was the philosophy that wind and sunshine were free, so it didn’t matter how much was wasted once you started to use it. Since both Les and Thomas have Scottish ancestry, they were both offended by the wonton waste. To be sure, the developers of wind turbines and PhotoVoltaic ( PV ) panels were working hard to make their individual collection devices better and more efficient, but they seemed to be ignoring the recent advances in high-current power electronics, and consequently not all of the energy that was made by these devices was being properly utilized.
Thomas and Les did something you often hear about but rarely experience in ‘real life’… they sat at the restaurant table, turned over a paper place-mat, and designed a solution. What they designed that day was the basis of what is now Hybridyne’s proprietary and patent-pending Conversion/Inversion Technology ( CIT ). They visualized a way to make wind energy and solar energy work together for the first time, and they designed a system that could do it efficiently – without wasting nearly as much wind and solar energy.
But what do to with it? As it happened, Thomas had a customer that was interested in renewables and willing to try something new. Les sourced wind turbines, the client sourced the solar panels, Thomas and Les designed and Les built the power electronics, the client erected the system in, on, and around a small warehouse/office/factory in Scarborough, Ontario, and asked the Deputy Minister of Energy ( who later became the Minister of Energy) to ‘cut the ribbon’. That system, Hybridyne’s Beta site, is still working to this day, delivering energy to the building and protecting it from blackouts. It was the first practical Hybrid ( both wind and solar ) Behind the Meter system in the world ( we believe ). The only major complaint seems to be from the staff in the building. When blackouts occur in the area, neighbouring businesses send their staff home, but the staff in this building have to keep working, because their power never goes off.
Advent of Hybridyne
In 2004, Thomas partnered with an Electrical construction firm of his long acquaintance and formed Hybridyne Power Systems Canada Inc. The word Hybridyne that he came up with , and trademarked internationally, comes from two separate words, “Hybrid”, meaning from more than one source, and “Dyne”, which is a measurement of energy in the study of physics.
He proceeded to surround himself with some of the very best people from several industries who he had known and trusted for a very long time. Using their transferred skills in furthering Hybridyne’s cause, the team has begun to shape an entirely new and vertically integrated group-corporate entity.
A new way of thinking about Energy generation.
Hybridyne recognized from the beginning that one of the problems facing our industry is the challenge of harmonizing disparate and often competitive technologies, and that this must be done at the basic and technical level. In answer to this question, we also recognized that there were firmly entrenched dogma and paradigms surrounding some very fundamental issues. In part answer to this problem as Hybridyne continued to bring the story to prospective and progressive clients who would listen, Thomas published a white paper called “ The Renewable Energy System Equation “ which formalized the harmonized calculation of Yield from Renewable-Energy powered installations. To our knowledge, this is the first time that such a treatment was applied in this industry.
A New Direction
Hybridyne’s business for the next few years was totally focused in the Behind-the-Meter arena because at that time there was no profitable methodology in Ontario Canada for selling energy to the grid. The advent of the then very new Ontario Power Authority’s (OPA’s) Renewable Energy Standing Offer Program ( RESOP ), changed the landscape dramatically. RESOP promised a streamlined way to sell electricity to the Ontario power grid at advantageous rates.
Hybridyne had been working with a very progressive business owner in Clarington, Ontario, who wanted renewable energy to power or help power his building, but the building and its rooftop were so old that putting anything on the roof was impractical. However, this same man also owned a golf course near Newcastle, Ontario that had a 10-acre piece of non-arable land attached to it. “Can we put the solar panels on the ground and sell the electricity to the Grid through the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) ? " The owner was entranced with the idea, the municipality was enthusiastic, an investor was found to own the project, and everybody set about making it reality.
Becoming the Hybridyne Group
About this time, Hybridyne had come to realize that we were in several different businesses. Every time we talked to potential customers and tried to explain what we did, it came out that we built Behind the Meter systems, we built electronics, we had recently taken on a renewable energy remote Hybrid powered lighting product ( because it was Hybrid, powered by both wind and solar ), and now we were in the business of selling power to the grid. It seemed to confuse people (it often confused us), so we decided to split the core responsibilities into separate and independent pieces, each with its own shareholders, investors and mandate. Each unit was not created as a division of Hybridyne, because that may still confuse potential investors, but instead as a group of Sister companies. With the exception of the name Hybridyne, and access to Hybridyne’s IP, they were very different and separate entities.
Hybridyne Power Systems Canada Inc. ( HPS ) , the original company, would continue to design and build Behind the Meter systems and would be the design, engineering and construction arm of what we were now calling the Hybridyne Group of Companies.
The lighting product was transferred to Hybridyne-RHS Inc. ( RHS ) , as the first of what is now a series of Remote Hybrid Systems – designed to have no connection to the standard power grid.
Design, manufacture, and sales of electronics would henceforth be inside Hybridyne Power Electronics Inc. ( HPE ). For the first time, we would have a company which had a mandate to sell products to our ‘competitors’ in the Renewable Energy Industry. His friend Les became a founding partner and CTO of this company, from 2007 – late 2010.
Hybridyne Power Generation Corp. ( HPG ) had the responsibility to own, sell, and operate grid-supply systems. The Clarington based ground-mounted PV project became HPG Site A Inc., and a number of wind- and solar-powered grid-supply projects ( HPG sites A – L, totaling 150MW of planned projects ) were started throughout Ontario, each designed to operate under Ontario’s RESOP and then later the FIT programs.
RESOP looked like a great opportunity for the province, and existing Ontario based companies like the Hybridyne Group. Ontario ( committed to shutting down coal-fired generating stations and having decided not to build or re-commission any more nuclear generating stations ) was in need of more electricity, and renewables were recognized as an appropriate source. To encourage the construction of ‘small’ ( under 10 MW ) Renewable Energy generation facilities, RESOP offered an advantageous purchase price.
Since Hybridyne had been in the renewables business for years at this point, we were approached by a number of investors and land owners. The investors had stated very early on that the single Clarington township project was not large enough to encourage a large investment fund. So with that in mind, we set about constructing a portfolio of projects that in the end totaled about $850M worth of projects all over Ontario. Some were pure wind farms, some were pure solar arrays, and most were Hybrid Energy Parks with both wind turbines and solar arrays in the same project. Under RESOP, the municipal approvals were to be gained first, and finally the Grid connection through the Local Distribution Company. We had gone through the municipal approval process with no problems, but the very large LDC took so long in processing our application, that RESOP had been “temporarily suspended” by a week or so before we received the LDC’s approval statement for the grid-connected Clarington Township project. We then settled in to wait until RESOP was restarted, and went back to other business. Unfortunately the RESOP program was scrapped altogether, and then restarted as the FIT program, with some very different rules of engagement. As a result a large number of these projects dropped out of the pipeline, but are being replaced by Ground- and Roof-Mounted PV systems under the FIT program.
Between RESOP and FIT
Fortunately, grid-supply systems are not the only work carried on by the Hybridyne Group.
Hybridyne-RHS (HRHS) had established itself as the world-wide marketer of the PortaDyne-Lite, a wind and solar powered light-and-security platform. HRHS is now also the marketer of PortaDyne, a ‘mini-utility-in-a-box’ created by Thomas in late 2005, which can be trucked or helicoptered into remote villages and worksites to provide electricity far off the grid.
The Hybridyne Power Electronics partnership was developing the new HyperWattTM series of inverters and had contracted to supply balance-of-system electronics for the manufacturer of a new high-efficiency utility-scale wind turbine with a new turbine company in the US. HPE has several new technologies being patented, on the drawing boards and currently in development.
Hybridyne Power Systems was installing a number of Behind the Meter systems, including North America’s ( and probably the world’s ) first Hybrid Renewable Energy power augmented data-center. HPS will continue to build these financially-attractive facilities in Canada and elsewhere.
A New Energy reality
Between 2005 – 2007 Hybridyne believed that some new terminology needed to be coined to describe a new reality in the industry. There were Solar arrays and Wind farms all over the world, but these were closed to the public. Hybridyne believed that these projects need not closed off, and coined and copy-righted the Term “Energy Park©”. An Energy Park©’s implication is that people can happily coexist with vast electricity generation in a park-like setting (with safety protocols and setbacks observed). We even investigated having turbine bases disguised as massive tree trunks, if turbines were to be installed in tree-lined walking areas, so as to not impede the enjoyment of the surroundings with grey or white steel and concrete structures. Further we believed that every Wind project could be Hybridized to include Solar, and that most Solar projects could be Hybridized to include wind. Therefore the phrase Hybrid Energy Park© was coined and copyrighted. Later when rooftop Solar became an interest, we labeled these Mini-Energy Parks©.
When the Ontario Power Authority finally announced the Feed In Tariff ( FIT ) program, the ‘gold rush’ was on. Suddenly, everybody who had ever seen a picture of a solar panel ( and to a lesser degree wind turbines ) were running around promoting themselves as a Renewable Energy expert ( particularly in the small residential or Micro-FIT-10kW and under arena ). Hybridyne’s long-standing expertise now came to the fore.
Since we had been designing and installing rooftop solar arrays for six years already, there was no mystery to us. We had experimented with different panels, angles of incidence, mounting methodologies, as well as different sized direct-drive wind turbines, and we were able to approach this “new” market with a mature and well-designed offering. Hybridyne is now working on many building-mounted PV arrays which will receive FIT contracts.
Additionally, with FIT’s initial false starts now resolved, Hybridyne Power Generation have received and executed a contract under which the Ontario Government has agreed to purchase electricity from our Clarington Township ground-mounted array for the next 20 years.
Our founder has been saying for years that, with respect to electrical energy generation and the environment, “The people of the world have a 100-year problem before us”. The combined challenges of protection of the Environment and the diminishing oil supply are forcing dramatic changes in the energy landscape. Our founder has endeavored to ensure that Hybridyne will always be part of the 100-year solution – while most companies have a 5 year business plan, Hybridyne started with a 50-year business plan that was intended to be a multi-generational feature of this new world.
Improved technologies already being patented and developed by Hybridyne and others will dramatically increase renewable energy system yield. New explanatory papers are being written, the new products will find new homes, and new productive and cooperative partnerships will allow us ever-increasing opportunities to use our ever increasing expertise and influence to do our part to help better the world.