GE Awards First Ecomagination Millions to Smart Grid Firms

NEW YORK, NY — GE today handed out the first of what will be $200 million in awards from its Ecomagination Challenge to companies making windows that automatically tint to keep buildings cool, heating systems that run on solar-powered hot water and other energy-efficient technologies developed with the smart grid in mind.

Out of nearly 4,000 ideas submitted to the challenge, GE selected 12 companies that will be on the receiving end of $55 million.

The challenge, which was open for 10 weeks, is aimed at speeding up the development and use of power grid technology around the world. In addition to investing in ideas, GE will work with winners on technology development, validation and distribution.

The 12 companies GE is partnering with work on energy storage, utility security, energy management software, electric vehicle charging and other technologies that connect with power grids.

Soladigm makes the window technology mentioned above that switches glass from clear to tinted in order to control heat and glare, and can reduce energy needs of HVAC systems by 25 percent. ClimateWell is the company behind the cooling and heating systems that are run by water heated by solar power.

Sentient Energy makes advanced grid monitoring devices and software, while FMC-Tech makes a power line monitoring system that detects and locates faults.

The energy storage category includes SustainX, which provides isothermal, compressed-air energy storage, which could possibly cost half of what traditional compressed-air storage costs. 

The other recipients of the challenge funds include Consert, The Fu Foundation School for Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University, JouleX, OPOWER, Scientific Conservation and SecureRF Corporation and SynapSense Corporation.

GE is co-investing with Foundation Capital in Sentient Energy, and with RockPort Capital in SustainX.

Five $100,000 awards are also being given to help develop other ideas. Those winners are Capstone Metering's IntelliH2O water meters, which are self-powered and provide real-time water management; ElectricRoute's secure communications network for substations; GridON's fault-current-limiter, which protects electric grids from power outages and disruptions; IceCode's wind turbine blade anti-icing and de-icing technology, which uses pulses to apply heat from the inside of blades; and WinFlex's light, inflatable wind turbines.

A number of smaller awards were given out to companies including Clarian Power, whose SmartBox Solar Module can plug into electrical outlets for easy and cheaper installation; and People Power Company, which worked with Stanford University on its Physical Experiential Technology Systems for creating energy-saving consumer products. People Power used the platform to develop the GreenX Egg, a small item someone would keep in their refrigerator that would ask someone to close the fridge door if it is left open too long.

Green outlet - CC license by Flickr user hamron