MIT Sloan School Student One of Three Finalists in “Crazy Green Idea” Contest to Create Energy X Prize

11/17/08Follow @bbuderi

Updated (see below): A student group at MIT’s Sloan School of Management has been named one of three national finalists in a contest seeking YouTube video proposals for the creation of a new X Prize in Energy and the Environment, the X Prize Foundation announced today.

Jonathan Dreher’s 2-minute proposal, “Energy X PRIZE: Reduce Home Energy Usage,” notes that renewable energy technologies could have a big effect on our energy future by increasing the supply of energy. However, he notes, “This approach is already getting plenty of attention and may not benefit from a prize for additional incentives. The other, often forgotten way, is to reduce our demand for energy.” And, as Dreher notes, “Unlike a technology-based X Prize, every American can participate.” He claims that a $10 million prize focused on energy conservation could have a $1 billion impact.

(Update, Nov. 17: I finally reached Dreher, who noted first off that he worked with two fellow students, Jeremy Stewart and Michael Norelli, on the proposal. All three are in a dual-degree program that will garner them a Sloan MBA and a master of science in engineering systems from MIT. Neither Steward nor Norelli was mentioned in the X Prize release.)

The X Prize Foundation, of course, is famous for its huge prizes that address key technology and innovation challenges. In 2004, a Burt Rutan-led team financed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen won the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE for suborbital spaceflight. Since then, the foundation has created the $10 million Archon X PRIZE for Genomics, the $10 million Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE, and the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE. The foundation and its partner, BT Global Services, are now in the process of developing prizes in Space and Ocean Exploration, Life Sciences, Education and Global Development, and, of course, Energy & Environment.

Which is what the Crazy Green Idea Contest is all about. The contestant whose video garners the most votes before the end of this month stands to take home the $25,000 top prize. And, according to today’s announcement, their Crazy Green Idea will be “explored as the next X PRIZE in Energy and the Environment.”

In addition to Dreher’s proposal, the other two finalists (out of 133 submissions—does that sound low to anyone?) were:

—Alan Silva, from Roy, UT. His idea, The Energy Independence X PRIZE, is described as: “A prize to develop energy-independent homes that exist completely off the grid.”

—Kyle Good, of Irvine, CA: His concept, The Capacitor Challenge, centers on development of “a new storage medium, an ‘ultra-capacitor’.”

We’ve embedded all three proposals below. You can find all the finalists and vote for your choice, here.

Bob is Xconomy's founder and editor in chief. You can e-mail him at bbuderi@xconomy.com, call him at 617.500.5926. Follow @bbuderi

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  • Alan Silva

    Howdy Robert. This is Alan Silva. I am one of the finalists for the xprize challenge. Thanks for covering this story. I think that our ability to deal with the environmental issues of our time will greatly determine what kind of future we will leave our kids.
    I wanted to make a stump for my idea. Here are some thoughts.

    The Energy Independence XPrize is the idea that will affect the greatest number of people around the world and help solve the most pressing and important issues of our time.

    Energy is the life blood of the world. Our progress as a society rises and falls on our ability to effectively and safely create and use energy. This is the most revolutionary Xprize idea because it provides 3 fundamental benefits:

    1. Energy Independence: The ability to create and produce large amounts of energy in a confined space will not only directly benefit the average family (in this case in their monthly budget by creating a completely energy independent home), but open the door to many areas, including but not limited to:

    A. Community and Cities: The blackouts that so plaque large cities like Los Angeles (and cost billions in lost productivity) will become a thing of the past as the technologies developed from this Xprize are expanded to cover larger and larger areas.

    B. 3rd world development: Communities in 3rd world countries that currently do not have access to power due to infrastructure and transmission costs will, through this Xprize, be able to develop and grow in ways that will benefit millions around the world.

    C. So many other benefits: If each home had an independent supply of power, how much easier would it be to create and sell electric cars? How much pollution would that reduce? The potential benefits are staggering!

    2. Safeguard against the effects of Natural Disasters and Terrorism: In this age where terrorism and natural disasters are now commonplace worries, having decentralized power is not only critical for national security, but to the social and financial health of all nations. When hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, one of the worst problems was that when the centralized power grid went down, it shut down all the water filtration stations, water pumps and hospitals in the city. If every pumping station, hospital, and home in the future is individually powered, it will make a huge difference in the outcome of these disasters.

    3. 20% Reduction in Nationwide pollution levels: Balancing the effects of pollution and Energy creation is an issue that affects us all. The United States has been hesitant to enter into the 1997 Kyoto agreement in large part because the 33 percent reduction in pollution levels would have directly affected the economy. Residential pollution accounts of over 20% of the nations’ pollution level. An Xprize that helps to eliminate this is something that needs to be taken seriously.

    When Spaceship One crossed the threshold of space, we saw a small company do two things that many thought could not be done. We saw a quantum leap in both technology and cost reduction in a field that badly needed both. This Xprize will create leaps in technologies that control Energy Creation, Storage and Transmission. Vote for the Energy Independence Xprize and make a difference that will ultimately affect you, your family, your community and the world!

    Alan Silva

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  • http://simplehomesolarenergy.com Cathy S

    I appreciate Jonathan Dreher’s proposal, “Energy X Prize: Reduce Home Energy Usage.”

    His comment that there is an often forgotten way to reduce our demand for energy–just use less energy–is true.

    While technology can improve our efficiency, only daily human choices reduce our energy consumption.