Article featured on The University of Auckland Business School webpage December 13 – A link to the original story can be found here, otherwise full content has been included below:
Business School alumnus makes wind power greener
By the time Fady Mishriki wrapped up his project on wireless electricity for his conjoint BCom/BEng degree at The University of Auckland in 2003, with fellow student Kunal Bhargava, he knew that he was onto something.
Wireless electricity using electromagnetic induction was not new – American inventor Nicola Tesla pioneered it more than a century ago – but, working under the direction of supervisor Dr Patrick Hu, Mishriki glimpsed a way to incorporate it efficiently into compact devices. He foresaw almost limitless applications for the new technology in hostile environments where traditional cables and connectors were difficult or dangerous.
Seven years on, Mishriki is just back from Spain where PowerbyProxi – the company he co-founded with business partner Greg Cross in 2007 – has successfully completed the first wind-turbine trials of its flagship Proxi-Ring technology.
“Wind is the only renewable energy source that is economically viable today. But the challenge with wind generation has always been maintenance costs, and pitch-control slip rings are one of the major pain points for many operators,” Mishriki says.
Slip rings use brush contacts to deliver power and data back to the pitch-control systems in the hub of the turbine so the blade angles can be altered to improve turbine power output in changing wind conditions. With hubs rotating at up to 30 revolutions per minute, the standard friction-based system is subject to a high level of wear. The Proxi-Ring, by contrast, is based on inductive power transfer and is entirely contact-free.
“Our technology makes wind power greener by cutting maintenance costs and increasing up-time. Turbines spend more time generating power and less time being pulled apart for repair.”
More trials are scheduled but already, says Mishriki, there have been “significant expressions of interest” from potential customers.
Worldwide, slip rings are a multi-billion dollar market, of which wind turbines are a growing subset, with the installed base doubling every three years.
The Business School’ enterprise culture has played an ongoing role in PowerbyProxi’s success. While still a student, Mishriki took leadership roles in Spark, the University’s student-led business planning competition – which he describes as ‘business training with safety wheels on’.
It was through The ICEHOUSE that Mishriki met Cross, and in 2007 the pair founded PowerbyProxi to commercialise the cutting-edge technology. PowerbyProxi got its first major break when it secured John Deere, the world’s largest maker of farm and forestry equipment, as a partner and customer. A stint in the Business School-backed ICEHOUSE business incubator followed, after which the company moved to its own premises.
Other deals soon followed and PowerbyProxi, which went on to win Innovation of the Year for its Proxi-Ring product family, now has a wholly-owned subsidiary in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Despite its global ambitions – and projects underway with several more Fortune 100 companies – Mishriki says the company’s research and product development will always be based in New Zealand, where it continues to draw on The University of Auckland’s talent pool for research and for future employees.