Only One $25,000 Green X PRIZE Contest Finalist Addresses Climate Change

The X PRIZE Foundation, well known for its $10 million Ansari X PRIZE for building and launching a spacecraft to push the limits of space travel, is aiming to take on energy and the environment next through it’s “Crazy Green Idea” Contest. Rather than designing the contest in a vacuum, the foundation has decided to unleash the wisdom of the crowds by offering $25,000 to submitter of the best idea via YouTube video.
Unfortunately, the crowd wasn’t so wise, due to the limited publicity received by the contest. X PRIZE received and considered a mere 133 videos, from which it selected 3 finalists. Believe it or not, only one idea, proposed by a team of MIT graduate students, addresses climate change directly. One finalist’s idea is a ridiculous suggestion to replace the grid power system with “off the grid” independent power generation systems for homes, powered by solar, wind, geothermal, and “a motor.” Another focuses on environmentally friendly batteries, or “ultra capacitors.” Finally, only one idea addresses climate change with the suggestion that the next X PRIZE be devoted to drastically reducing home energy consumption.
Watch all three videos below and vote on best idea for the Energy and Environment X PRIZE:

Reduce Home Energy Usage

This is the only idea that addresses the pressing issue of climate change, as Governor Schwarzenegger issues his executive orders to prepare California for rising seas. The team suggests that the competition reward the community that can most drastically reduce its energy consumption. The brilliance in the idea is that while it could have attacked energy consumption-reducing technology, it focuses on consumer behavior, which indirectly impacts technology through demand.

The Energy Independent Homes

This idea suggests that homes should all be taken off the grid and produce energy independently. Apparently this guy slept through his economics lecture on economies of scale. The only apparent benefit to this approach is one that relates to fighting terrorism, which he mentions in the video. Ugh.

The Capacitor Challenge suggests that batteries, as a significant source of toxic compounds, should be reinvented using “environmentally benign materials.” While they are right about the need to advance rechargable battery technology, there are significant resources already being dedicated to this and a real demand for the technology. For example, I was recently made aware of this San Diego company which makes Nickel-Zinc (NiZn) batteries, which are 90% recyclable, the most of any rechargable battery technology. They aren’t the only ones investing big in these technologies.
The fate of the X PRIZE rests in your hands. Now, go vote.

Ryan Mickle is one of the partners and pundits behind 3p. He is a consultant, speaker, and passionate advocate for transparency, values-driven business, and empowering "consumers" to become evangelists in our new, decentralized media landscape. Ryan holds a BA in Economics from Berkeley, and he loves traveling, running marathons (love may be too strong a word), yoga, and contributing to the gross national happiness (GNH) in business and otherwise.