Energy Efficient Managing and Transportation of Water

Published Apr-23-12

A global open innovation competition for water businesses to save energy.

Imagine H20, United States

The Story:

Energy Efficient Managing and Transportation of Water Non profit organization Imagine H20 has coordinated a number of open innovation initiatives to uncover cutting edge solutions to tricky water problems. One of those was the 2010 Water-Energy Nexus Competition that offered $100,000 in prizes for companies whose ideas can reduce the amount of energy required to move and treat water and wastewater.

Critical Concern

The issue is nothing short of vital. The supply and delivery of water is energy expensive, and as energy supplies dwindle and the pressure mounts to keep carbon footprints low, water companies need to develop innovative and sustainable solutions. In the US for example, 3% of the country’s electric power generation is used for treating, pumping and distributing water. In California, it’s as high as 19%.

“The connection between water and energy use has started to garner attention from business and government,” Imagine H2O Chairman Tamin Pechet said in a statement. “With our 2010 prize, Imagine H2O will raise awareness of the opportunity for entrepreneurs to provide smart solutions to cut energy consumption in our water system.”

Pechet also remarked that water challenges present an opportunity for entrepreneurs as the water supply systems of the future will have to be energy efficient ones.

Ideas for a Thirsty Planet

To enter the competition individuals or teams had to propose start-ups that would adequately serve the water or wastewater needs of customers whilst reducing the amount of energy required to perform these services. As a starting point for participants Imagine H20 proposed a number of categories that solutions could fall in – water treatment, water disposal, sourcing water and distributing water.

The Competition Gets Underway

The open innovation competition attracted more than 50 teams from all round the world including Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Singapore and the United States.

The panel of judges made up of leading experts from the water sector selected ten finalists, and they entered the Imagine H20 Incubator where amongst other things they received business mentoring and expert insights.

Winners and Runners-Up

The overall winner was Seattle-based Hydrovolts which uses floating “flip-wing” turbines to convert the flow of canals into an energy source. Their prize purse included cash, business and legal support as well as access to customers, partners and financiers to help bring the idea to market.

“We’re very optimistic about the global market opportunity, “said Hydrovolts CEO Burt Hammer.

“Canals are an untapped energy resource, and they are essentially the same around the world so we expect to expand our impact rapidly. Participating in the Imagine H20 contest helped us to refine our business plan, recruit investors, and initiate new partnerships.”

The runners-up were BlackGold Biofuels, a company that recovers energy from wastewater streams, and FogBsuters which treats petroleum, biofuel and food processing wastewater and captures the FOG (fat, oil and grease) to make biodiesel. These two companies also received cash prizes and in-kind legal services and consultation services.

Awareness Raising

In addition to providing opportunities for entrepreneurs, Imagine H20’s open innovation contest aimed to raise awareness of the energy costs of water management, and the huge impacts that adopting new technologies could have.

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