Crowdsourcing Competition for Breakthrough Clean Energy Solutions

Published Mar-02-14

The 2013 MIT Clean Energy Prize was awarded to a technology that could vastly improve the efficiency of solar panels and make them cheaper to produce.

The MIT Clean Energy Prize, United States

The Story:

Crowdsourcing Competition for Breakthrough Clean Energy Solutions Enticed by the lure of valuable funding, exposure and the chance to network with key industry players, dozens of student groups submitted their clean energy solutions to a prestigious annual competition.

The MIT Clean Energy Prize is a US-nationwide open innovation contest for graduate and undergraduate students to find the most innovative clean energy solutions. Like all good prize-based contests it concentrates minds and is a catalyst for novel ideas and radical thinking.

Accelerating Energy Innovations

The contest was founded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Department of Energy and NStar to promote efficient and cheap clean energy solutions, reduce dependence on oil and lessen energy’s impact on the environment.

At the same time it helps students wanting to enter the field forge relationships with academia, industry and government bodies, and gives them a platform to help bring their innovative solutions to market.

“The MIT Clean Energy Prize is meant to be a program to develop energy entrepreneurship skills using a big carrot, bright lights, and a large stage as incentives,” said Bill Aulet, Chairman and founder of the Clean Energy Prize and Managing Director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship.

In 2013, more than 50 teams from 38 schools entered and they were whittled down to 15 semi-finalists. From this clutch of concepts three finalists were selected in each of three categories - renewable energy, energy efficiency, and infrastructure and resources.

Grand Prize Winner

The overall Grand Prize Winner was Picasolar, a student start-up from the University of Arkansas who've developed a patent-pending technology (Hydrogen Selective Emitter – HSE) that aims to increase the efficiency of solar cells by 15 percent. It works by fixing electron-absorbing flaws on the surfaces of silicon solar cells. The team estimates that this could save solar cell manufacturers up to $20 million annually.

According to Picasolar’s website: “Our technology is a one-step, self-aligned selective emitter applicable to fully fabricated solar cells. Industrial scale implementation would cost <$0.01/Wp enabling efficiency gains which effectively save ~$0.10/Wp.”

For winning the competition, Picasolar was awarded $150,000 and an additional $100,000 from the Department of Energy.

Benefits for Participants

By providing expert support and financial backing, the competition allows entrepreneurial spirits and creative minds to flourish and develop radical technologies that could greatly benefit us and the environment. Plus, it gives participants the support they need to get their start-ups off to a flying start.

In his opening remarks at the Grand Finale, Bill Aulet cited past MIT participants such as FastCap Systems, Oscomp Systems and Levant Power and FinSix that have since grown into successful companies.

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