In 1999, with the help of co-founders Gerald Fargo and George Weinmann, Wayne Bliesner founded high tech startup Alternative Designs, Inc. (ADI) to pursue development and commercialization of his several inventions. In 2000 he left Boeing for ADI to focus on developing an ultra-high-temperature Dual Shell Stirling engine. The engine was developed to provide the highest heat-to-electric conversion efficiency, while reducing manufacturing costs to make it a market-changing solution. In 2000, at the urging of its investor base, ADI split off its Stirling Engine technology into a separate company, ADI Thermal Power Corp.,focused solely on the Stirling Engine. Over the next 8 years ADI Thermal evolved the engine/genset into its present day functioning prototype, but required further funding for full power durability testing. Surviving these ambitious development years involved overcoming technical and financial obstacles that would have failed less persistent companies. Yet the engine’s greater potential, to make mainstream solar power generation a reality, had not yet been made evident. The US economy’s financial tail-spin that started in 2008 found ADI Thermal struggling to survive. The company leaned up its operation, scrambled to raise sustaining funds, and refocused its market strategy on Solar.
In 2008-9, solar technology (solar thermal in particular) was receiving widespread renewed interest from the investor community. Ever the inventor, Mr. Bliesner saw an opportunity to transform solar power generation into a dominant market technology and concurrently pull ADI Thermal’s Stirling engine technology back into the limelight. Stemming from efforts performed separately from ADI Thermal, Mr. Bliesner invented the Calcium Hydride Thermal Reactor. . This technology provides a quantum leap in solar thermal storage efficiency for the solar industry and it fits perfectly as the high temperature heat source for ADI Thermal’s Stirling engine. Together these technologies provide cutting edge solutions for solar power generation.
In 2009, Bliesner and Fargo formed ADI Solar Corp to pursue this promising new solar technology. ADI Solar would house the new solar technologies, and the two companies could achieve success together or separately on their own merits. Yet the synergy between the two technologies would enhance the probability of success for both companies. Working together Bliesner and Fargo developed the reactor technology and framed it within an overall solar power generating system of comparable brilliance. Fargo invented and patented an innovative solar collector system to feed ADI Solar’s thermal reactor. Bliesner devised a hydrogen storage method with operating conditions that matched those of the thermal reactor.
ADI complemented its technical expertise by bringing on board a strategic business expert from Microsoft, and partnered with government institutions, national laboratories, and with private industry. These partners have included the California Energy Commission, Coal Utilization Research Council, California Air Resources Board, National Air and Space Administration, Department Of Energy, Electric Power Research Institute, National Institute of Science and Technology, Puget Sound Energy, Northwest Natural Gas, and Alliant Energy. These partnerships helped to pre-validate the designs and refine the prototypes necessary to produce a market-ready solution. US and International patents have been obtained on all parts of the system. The team has prototyped the calcium hydride storage chamber, and are at a stage where the company is ready to produce a full-scale demonstration of the chemical thermal storage reactor and sub-components. This demonstration will prove the viability of the storage capabilities of a complete system, and help move the solution into commercialization.