Mainspring Energy said it signed a memorandum of understanding with American Electric Power to pilot its linear generator technology in Oklahoma. 

The pilot project is expected to help AEP evaluate a variety of potential grid-side use cases for the technology, including placing scalable generation in load pockets to delay or avoid transmission and distribution upgrades, capacity that can switch between multiple fuels as an alternative to new peaker generation, and accelerated electrification of infrastructure including EV charging deployments.

Mainspring’s linear generator is designed to convert motion along a straight line into electricity using chemical or thermal energy. The design uses a low-temperature reaction of air and fuel to drive magnets through copper coils to produce electricity. The design is intended to boost efficiency, result in near-zero NOx emissions, enable dispatchability, and allow switching between fuels.

The product also aims to achieve low capital and maintenance costs by using standard materials, by limiting its number of moving parts to two, and by deploying an air bearing system that replaces oil. 

Last August, Pacific Gas & Electric said it deployed a Mainspring generator to help it provide replacement power during weather emergencies, earthquakes and Public Safety Power Shutoff events. Under the agreement, NextEra Energy Resources provided the financing for the technology deployment as part of a $150 million purchase and financing agreement with Mainspring.

In June, Mainspring said that its generator had successfully run in tests using both 100% hydrogen and 100% ammonia fuels. The company said its product runs on biogas, renewable natural gas, and other gaseous fuels, and can switch between fuels with software-based control.

One targeted market segment is diesel generators that are used for backup generation operations at data centers, hospitals, and other operations. Mainspring has cited a 2021 report that said that California alone hosts diesel backup generators with a capacity greater than 12 GW, about 15% of the state’s entire electricity grid.

Mainspring said its hydrogen or ammonia-fueled product could replace a diesel backup generator with equal resilience at zero-carbon, while also offering streamlined permitting, demand response, and wholesale market participation.

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