This summer GE turned to the internet global hive mind by issuing an open invitation to any and all to compete for the best ideas for greening the grid, in one of the largest projects ever launched to accelerate the development of the next generation of clean-technologies via open collaboration.
Selected out of more than 4,000 entries from around the globe, each winner receives $100,000 to develop their ideas. Two of the five winners for greening the grid are from Israel, and perhaps that is appropriate. The Middle East generally is most at risk from not solving climate change. One idea would help even out the grid as more renewable energy is added, the other makes wind power cheaper.
Controlling Power Quality in Electric Grids was the winning entry from GridON Systems in Givatayim, Israel, developed in collaboration with Bar-Ilan University and Ricor Ltd. Their technology solves short-circuiting and outages from overloaded electric grids by enabling precise control over their flow and power.
Their novel new fault-current-limiter would protect the electric grid from disruptions and power outages, increasing the grid’s reliability and enabling load growth and generation expansion from alternative energy sources which are more intermittent than traditional electricity sources. Wind especially, during storms, can suddenly and unexpectedly overwhelm local grids.
Inflatable Wind Turbines the creation of Dr. Vladimir Kliatzkin with WinFlex, in Kiryat Yam, Israel also solved a wind issue: the heavy materials that are currently necessary in the large blades for catching wind to turn a turbine are not just heavy, but expensive.
By changing the shape to something like a hollow steering wheel, and making it from a hollow tube constructed of a super-lightweight flexible fabric, the inventors reduce installation costs by at least half, shortening the return on investment to three-four years, without subsidies. Watch their animation.
There were two ways to win. First, the public could vote for the best ideas, and then – regardless of “the popular vote” – a professional jury could select their favorite ideas.
This backup plan turned out to be a good one.The public turned out to have a surprisingly limited understanding of genuine innovation, and overwhelmingly backed ideas that will seem pretty tired ideas to most readers of green innovation blogs, about on the level of putting solar panels on houses. Not innovative, but merely prescriptive.
The professional jury supplied more interesting, useful, and actually novel selections, such as the two from GridOn and WinFlex.
Nevertheless, the open platform was a huge success. Nearly 4,000 ideas were generated across the open innovation platform between 70,000 entrepreneurs in more than 150 countries over several months.
The professional jury comprised an independent panel of judges including challenge advisor, Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson, GE executives and leading academics and technologists.
Videos of each of the ideas can be seen at GE’s Ecomagination site. GE got help from from four leading venture capital firms, Emerald Technology Ventures, Foundation Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byer and RockPort Capital to conceive and implement the Challenge. Innovation ideas were sought in three categories: Renewables, Grid and Eco Homes/Eco Buildings.