GE Ecomagination challenge offering $200 million for energy ideas

Electrical worker displays short circuitOil from algae? Electricity from tidal movement? Solar panels in space? GE and several partners have announced a new $200 million Ecomagination challenge that will reward the best new ideas of how to make the grid more efficient, find renewal energy and build greener homes and businesses.

The GE Ecomagination "Powering the Grid" challenge is open to one and all, and entering is easy. Go to its website and submit your "detailed proposal ... that is both innovative and proprietary." (I'm guessing here that your beer-inspired napkin sketches won't meet the "detailed proposal" requirement.)

Ideas are solicited in three areas:

A Smarter grid: Our current cat's cradle of electricity delivery lines leaks juice like a one-year-old with a sippy cup. Given how much we stress the environment to keep the A/C running and our soft drinks ice-cold, any progress that can be made in reducing this wastage could easily be worth $200 M.

EcoHomes/EconBuildings: Once the electricity arrives at our homes or places of employment, we often squander it with inefficient windows, lack of insulation, and the like. GE is on the forefront of the move to make our houses smart enough to turn off lights, modulate our HVAC, and maybe even feed the cat, but surely you have a new idea about how to make our buildings even more efficient. Personally, what I'm looking for in a smart house is one that shovels its own snow.

Renewable Energy: The holy quest of our lifetime has been the search for viable renewable energy sources. And we've made progress. Solar panels are a meaningful contributor, as is wind power, but we still live and die by our coal and oil. What's the answer? New sources and technologies? More efficient useage? GE is looking to you for solutions.

Winners will be determined by a panel of judges from the company, academia, venture capitalists, government researchers, and others. The winners will be selected after September 30, 2010. The public will be allowed to vote on the candidates. Although these votes don't count in the final selection, the idea gaining the most votes will receive a $50,000 prize.

Partnering with GE in this challenge are venture capital firms Emerald Technology Ventures, Foundation Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and RockPort Capital.

Winners will "be offered the opportunity to develop a commercial relationship with GE" which could include cash investment, technical expertise, aid in developing the idea, and help with distributing and marketing the final product.

GE recently announced that, since the inception of its Ecomagination research and development program in May of 2005, it has invested over $5 billion. It has vowed to raise the stakes by another $10 billion by 2015.

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