Novel Solar Panel Technology Wins Crowdsourcing Contest

Published Nov-08-15

An inexpensive technology that increases the efficiency of solar panels.

SunSaluter, United States

The Story:

Novel Solar Panel Technology Wins Crowdsourcing Contest Climate change is one of the trickiest problems facing the planet and requires lots of solutions. Through the internet and crowdsourcing, tapping the wisdom of the masses for possible answers is easy and relatively inexpensive.

Consequently, there is a number of open innovation climate change initiatives around the world. Some focus on global solutions, while others seek answers for local environmental/citywide problems. They include app contests to raise awareness of the problem and find solutions and Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Earth Challenge for sustainable ways of removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Wisdom of the Crowd

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT's) Climate CoLab is an online community of approximately 50,000 people from many different countries. They participate in annual contests for promising ideas that could lead to a sustainable future.

During 2015, 24 crowdsourcing contests were run on the Climate CoLab platform which yielded 37 winners. Among them were climate experts, concerned citizens, students, scholars and entrepreneurs.

From their number, Eden Full from the non-profit SunSaluter was selected as the Grand Prize winner. She picked up a check for $10,000 for a technology that uses gravity and water to rotate a solar panel during the day to generate 30% more electricity than a standard panel.

Conventional solar trackers are expensive, but SunSaluter features an adjustable design that can be used with any solar panel. A panel sits on a rotating frame with a weight at one end and a water clock at the other. As the water empties, the container gets lighter and the panel rotates.
SunSaluter also contains a water purifier which produces four liters of clean drinking water every 24 hours.

Full started SunSaluter as a school science project and it has since grown into a global company. Their SunSaluters, as the technology is called, now have a presence in 16 countries.

"This prize is especially important now," said Full. "We just decided that SunSaluter will become fully volunteer-led, supported by our non-profit and corporate partners. This funding will go toward making that possible."

In addition to Full's solar power helper, two other proposals received honorable mentions. They were:

• A national campaign on energy conservation and renewable energy in schools in India
• A mechanism to make polluters pay for climate damage due to maritime emissions

Ideas from Anywhere

One of Climate CoLabs stated aims is to expand the pool from which climate change solutions are drawn, making it easier for anyone with a good idea to contribute. Professor Thomas Malone, principal investigator for the Climate CoLab project, commented:

“We are very proud of this year’s winners, and we see this as just the beginning of new ways to use our global collective intelligence to tackle important societal problems like climate change.”

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