Energy Department Announces Regional Winners of National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition

The U.S. Department of Energy has announced the six regional winners, comprised of university students, for its National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition.

Underscoring the Obama Administration's commitment to support the next generation of energy leaders, the U.S. Energy Department has announced the six regional winners of its National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition. The initiative inspires university teams across the country to create new businesses and commercialize promising energy technologies developed at U.S. universities and the national laboratories. The regional finalists—Northwestern University, North Carolina A&T University, Purdue University, Brigham Young University, University of Arkansas and University of California-Berkeley—will go on to compete in the first national competition in Washington, D.C., on June 11 and 12.

"The National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition allows the best and brightest to use their entrepreneurial skills to tackle the energy challenges our Nation continues to face," says Acting Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman. "These innovative business strategies can expand the use of clean energy technologies and compete on a global market."

The national competition aims to promote entrepreneurship in clean energy technologies that will boost American competitiveness, bring cutting-edge clean energy solutions to the market, and strengthen our economic prosperity. Six regional organizations have received a total of $2 million over three years to host the competitions, including $100,000 in annual prizes for each regional competition's winning team. These six teams will now have the opportunity to compete in the second annual national competition on June 11 and 12 in Washington, DC. At the national competition, regional finalists will compete for cash prizes as well as unique technical, design, public relations, and legal assistance to help commercialize their technology.

The six winning universities that will compete in the national competition include:

Western Southwest Region—Rice Business Plan Competition run by Rice University

Northwestern University, SiNode Systems

SiNode's lithium battery anode technology addresses the two aspects of battery improvement, energy capacity and power density. SiNode Systems' Si-graphene composite anode provides up to a ten-fold increase in energy capacity compared to the conventional graphite anode, and can increase energy capacity of a complete battery assembly by 50 to 100%. The graphene scaffolding of the anode provides for more flexible support and a faster charging of the battery, up to ten-fold increase.

Southeastern Region—ACC Clean Energy Challenge run by University of Maryland

North Carolina A&T University, Bioadhesive Alliance Inc.

Bioadhesive Alliance is developing and manufacturing "PiGrid," a bio-based adhesive derived from hog waste that is environmentally-friendly, low-cost, and durable and can be utilized as a substitute to petroleum-based asphalt binder. The PiGrid bio-adhesive provides a sustainable alternative for the pavement industry as well as a lower production cost and an enhanced performance product as well as provides an appropriate solution for waste management from traditional swine waste decomposition.

Eastern Midwest Region—Clean Energy Trust Clean Energy Challenge run by Clean Energy Trust

Purdue University, Bearing Analytics

Bearing Analytics provides telemetry solutions offering temperature and vibration sensing to the industrial and wind turbine bearing markets. This technology allows users to predict bearing failure before it happens, helping to alleviate safety concerns, prevent costly gearbox failures in wind turbines, extend product lifetimes and increase energy efficiency.

Western Midwest Region—CU Cleantech New Ventures Challenge run by University of Colorado-Boulder

Brigham Young University, Invironment

PlasTe is a patent-pending technology created by Inviroment that facilitates the biodegradation of all types of plastic found in landfills. PlasTek is sprayed onto waste as it enters a landfill and begins to decompose any plastic it touches. As a result, the average landfill will experience a 13 to 20% increase in capacity annually. Additionally, PlasTek accelerates the methane output from plastics. Methane is already collected by many landfills as a source of clean energy. With PlasTek, the average landfill will collect enough additional methane to power over 4,000 homes annually.

Northeast Region—MIT Clean Energy Prize run by Massachusetts Institute of Technology

University of Arkansas, Picasolar

Picasolar has developed a Hydrogen Selective Emitter (HSE) to boost the efficiency of solar cells by improving the electrical connection between the different layers of a solar cell. The HSE increases solar power conversion efficiency and reduces the amount of silver needed to produce high-efficiency solar cells. With their HSE technology, manufacturers could increase profits by approximately $35 per solar panel based on efficiency gains and silver cost savings.

Western Region—First Look West run by California Institute of Technology

Pyro-E is developing an efficient solid-state system for electricity generation from waste heat. Pyro-E's solid-state system will increase energy-use efficiency and reduce environmental impact by capturing heat loss from other processes, such as fuel cell heat waste streams, and utilize the heat to generate clean electricity.

The National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition, which marks its second year, is part of the Obama Administration's Startup America initiative to celebrate, inspire and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship throughout the nation. In the competition's inaugural year, 300 teams participated in six regional competitions, and in the past year alone, those teams have incorporated 52 startups—creating more than 40 full time jobs and attracting almost $7 million in follow-on private and public sector funding.