Recently, I have been working at a start-up company developing a very High Temperature Thermal storage system. When I say high temperature, I mean a maximum core temperature around 4,000° F. Even though this temperature seems astronomical, there is solid Chemistry and Physics backing up the technology and NASA has successfully tested it at small scale. So it is not impossible; it just hasn’t been done at Utility scale before.
Utility scale is BIG. Thousands of tons of graphite. Gases moving through pipe systems at 200 mph. Sizes of products that are tens of meters across. And very pricey. On the other hand, the science that makes all this works deals with very specific molecular weights of blended gases and small margins for Carnot efficiencies. The smallest change can make the whole operation extremely inefficient. The whole range of skills must be employed.
The whole range of emotions must also be employed. Every day has a breakthrough and a setback – emotionally tough, intellectually stimulating thinking outside the box solving challenges. The fun part is getting to an answer that is supported by common knowledge and past experience but also provides a new way to address the challenge. The not so fun part is realizing that the victory is but one step up the very tall mountain.
So how do we keep at it every day? Working with a team that teaches, learns, collaborates, and struggles together really helps with the daily motivation. More importantly, we embrace our differences as a way to achieve the improbable. We look at challenges from our individual strengths and discuss alternatives. We argue about what is the best course of action. It is an interesting dynamic as we are often polar opposites on issues but are in total lock-step agreement on company direction. So while we don’t always agree on the approach, but we do agree to compromise and execute on what is best for the company. We also agree not to rehash the past and only address ramifications of past decisions as a learning experience for the future.
The rewards today are tangible. Building knowledge, camaraderie and agreement amongst the team. Satisfaction with solving problems and moving forward.
The rewards for tomorrow are company and personal success…hopefully.