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.

5 responses

  1. Great post, you’re spot on…
    We need to act immediately before our earth crossing the tipping point of irreversible climate change. Reducing our energy usage is the biggest change we can make…and we can do it right away.

  2. The headline should read: “Only One $25,000 Green X PRIZE Contest Finalist Addresses ANYTHING REALISTIC AND ACTUALLY HAS POTENTIAL” ….
    Nice post. please vote!

  3. “Apparently this guy slept through his economics lecture on economies of scale. ”
    Okay, admittedly this guy doesn’t cite any of his figures, but the benefits of distributed generation are completely sound. Transmission losses from centralized power plants can reach 10% on average. Likewise, any kind of centralized biomass or coal-fired power plant plant requires massive transportation expenditures simply to get the fuel to the power plant. He may have slept through his economics lecture, but did you sleep through your intro to logistics?

  4. @Not so fast: Interesting comment. What you are suggesting is that a carbon-minimizing (or carbon-optimized) production and transmission system be developed, thereby optimizing the number of generation systems and their locations to minimize carbon output. Brilliant idea, but not what door #2 suggests. The finalist’s idea is one that of scrapping the grid altogether, and I certainly agree with Coathy L’mours comment above on the realistic nature (or lack thereof) of this approach.

  5. Howdy guys, This is Alan Silva. I am the finalist that proposed getting off the grid. Granted, the 2 minute limit really narrowed down what we wanted to say so xprize has asked us to elaborate more on the scope of our idea. This is what I responded:
    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: Some homes already boast being ‘off the grid’, however this has normally been a costly and non cost effective endeavor. The ability to cheaply 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!
    I hope this helps to clarify a bit more what this idea is really all about. I do believe that a quantum leap in technology is possible(and in my estimation, long overdue)in this field and that we can all benefit from it. Hope this helps!

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