The Clean Energy Trust Clean Energy Challenge kicked off the National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition on April 4th in Chicago. The Challenge was the final stage in a multi-challenge process, in which eight states ran clean energy business plan competitions. The Challenge has two tracks, both of which are sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. The Early Stage track is part of the Clean Energy Trust's Innovation Ecosystem and supports early stage companies, while the Student Track is part of the National Competition and supports student-led startups. 

Bearing Analytics, of Purdue University, won the $100,000 DOE EERE-sponsored grand prize in the Student Track. Bearing Analytics offers a patent-protected temperature and vibration sensing solution to the industrial bearing market. 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. Bearing Analytics will now advance to the National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition, becoming our first competitor to advance. 

The $100,000 Early Stage grand prize winner went to LuminAID Lab, a collapsible solar-powered lantern. The company and its founders were inspired by the 2011 earthquake in Japan. Its design is a lightweight, ship-flat solar-powered light to fulfill the need for light in natural disaster situations. The company has sold more than 30,000 units thus far and is working on a next generation version.

The DOE commends both of its winners, and we are looking forward to seeing how they progress as companies. 

In addition to DOE prizes, several other prizes were awarded to startups competing in the Clean Energy Trust Clean Energy Challenge. 

The $50,000 Lakeside Prize, sponsored by McCafferty Interests, was awarded to SmarterShade. SmarterShade is an early-stage company that developed an automated shading tool for windows that can efficiently go from clear to dark to save energy and can be retrofitted to existing windows. 

Commonwealth Edison Co. and CET awarded its $20,000 Outstanding Woman Cleantech Entrepreneur prize to Niki Zmij, chief executive of Amplified Wind Solutions. Ampllified Wind Solutions is a student-led company from Cleveland State University who have developed a new wind technology that can amplify wind speed and produce up to six times more electricity than a conventional turbine.

The $10,000 Invenergy renewable-energy prize was awarded to SkySpecs LLC, a student-led group from the University of Michigan. The company has developed a lightweight, modular system of unmanned aerial vehicles intended to improve site inspections and infrastructure efficiencies. Invenergy LLC, is a Chicago-based wind energy firm headed by Michael Polsky, one of Clean Energy Trust's founding board members. 

Additionally, and excitingly, a last-minute prize of $10,000, pooled on the spot by judges who were impressed by their passion and presentation, went to a company run by two bird enthusiasts, Ornicept. The company from Ann Arbor, MI, created a software product that digitally captures data on birds in the field for wind energy companies and others.

Amy Francetic (Executive Director, CET), Jennifer Garson (Manager NCEBPC), Assistant Secretary David Danielson (Assistant Secretary, DOE EERE) and the Bearing Analytics team

Picture credit CET