IN² Spotlight: Flipping the Switch on a More Efficient Motor

Commercial Buildings

August 29, 2023—When Turntide Technologies joined the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2) in 2017, they had a small group and an untested product. Since then, they’ve scaled to more than 500 employees, and its motors now help cool and heat hundreds of commercial buildings and dairy barns worldwide for a fraction of the energy typically consumed.

“We have a really unique motor that can run efficiently at all speeds without requiring rare earth magnets,” Turntide CEO Ryan Morris said. “IN2 was one of the first times our science project went from the lab to the real world, where it created measurable economic value.”

Instead of a traditional induction motor, Turntide uses an electric switched reluctance motor, which is much more efficient. Historically, this type of motor was used for large facilities that required highly reliable, always-on motors, like nuclear power plants, but Turntide was able to scale down the motors to sizes that could fit in traditional HVAC units.

Turntide retrofits HVAC systems in commercial buildings ranging from quick-serve restaurants to retail stores, shopping malls, factories, and even a stadium. A big box retail chain in the United Kingdom installed 800 units while retrofitting their stores and saw a 40% energy savings.

The motors are also used in large fans and ventilation systems found in dairy barns to help drive down operational costs, reduce carbon emissions, and create safer, healthier environments for dairy cows and farm workers.

A man installs an energy efficient motor on a rooftop.

Turntide was able to scale down the an electric switched reluctance motor to sizes that could fit in traditional HVAC units and they now retrofit HVAC systems in commercial buildings. Photo courtesy of Turntide Motors.

“The motor control strategy, which was developed with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), allows our customers to save an average of 64% of the energy normally used by the motor,” Chetan Gaonkar, energy analytics and sales engineering manager for Turntide, said. “By using sophisticated software to control the speed along with the superior efficiency of the motor, we can reduce the amount of energy consumed, saving money on utility bills and reducing the carbon footprint of building operations.”

The entire Turntide team credits IN2 for launching the company forward. They believe the work with NREL allowed them to make a greater impact on the market, because most potential customers asked for a vote of confidence from a technically reputable institution like NREL before Turntide had a large portfolio of customers. The work with NREL also helped spur more fundraising because they could provide the project results to potential investors.

“Having reports from NREL enabled us to scale,”  said Brian Chang, product marketing for Turntide. “We are bringing something new to the market. Third-party validation allows us to leverage unbiased and convincing proof points when we’re discussing our technology with new customers.”

Additionally, utility companies in several states have approved the motor for upwards of an 80% rebate.

“We try to make our technology more affordable for our customers,” Chang said. “The testing validation we get from NREL helps us have meaningful conversations with utility companies and qualifies our technology for more money-saving utility rebates.”

The company’s partners often work with customers to bundle Turntide’s products to lower costs for installation. Furthermore, Turntide has already applied technologies to the electric vehicle market, focusing on electrifying commercial and industrial vehicles like trains, boats, and construction equipment.

Turntide continues to win awards and customers, but the company is not resting on its laurels.

“Nothing’s been easy,” Morris said. “The bigger the scale gets, the more things you have to get right. These are big, complicated problems, so getting feedback and making adjustments are important.”

Learn more about the other companies in the IN2 portfolio.

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