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Teams Prepare For Clean Energy Prize Competition

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Ideas for new green-energy businesses ranging from a credit card bonus points program to fund renewable energy projects to a speed bump that generates electricity for roadside electronics will go head to head Jan. 21 in Round Two competition for the 2010-2011 Clean Energy Prize.

The competition, presented by DTE Energy and the University of Michigan and now in its third year, challenges teams to develop business plans that promise to move a new, clean-energy technology from concept to the marketplace.

A total of 23 teams made up of students from seven Michigan colleges and universities participated in Round 1, for which judging was conducted Nov. 23 at UM’s Ross School of Business. Fifteen have advanced to Round 2. The schools represented by participants in the first round include The University of Michigan, Wayne State University, Kettering University, Lake Superior State University, Western Michigan University, Lake Michigan College and Lawrence Technological University.

The competition requires that teams focus on business ideas that support renewable energy, energy efficiency, smart grid technologies, environmental control technologies, plug-in electric vehicles or energy storage. The teams are competing for a share of a $100,000 prize pool. The prize money rewards the winning teams with resources that can help them further develop their ideas and ultimately start new businesses that can contribute to Michigan’s emerging role as a leader in clean energy.

The teams that advanced from the first round are:

* Green Start Batteries: An eco-friendly and cost effective alternative to new batteries by renewing 7 out of 10 lead acid batteries to original manufacturing standards at one third of the cost of new batteries.
* Cents of Watts: Electronic data applications to allow utilities to connect and communicate rebate offers to customers.
* Team 8 Products: A water bottle that provides electricity from waste heat for use by campers and backpackers.
* Sol Power: Distributing small scale clean energy through innovative solar powered generators.
* Swiftlet Technologies: A data collection platform that helps make smarter, more efficient energy production and consumption systems.
* Smart Energy Loan Fund: Providing an innovative financing model to retrofit municipal buildings for energy efficiency savings.
* Project Re-Tire: A more environmentally friendly and economical way of tire waste reduction by exporting recycled tire materials of crumb rubber, steel and rubber fiber to provide green alternatives like fuel, asphalt and turf.
* MW Energy: A mechanism to allow organizations to use their self created biodiesel through Fuel Purchase Agreements. 
* CSquared Innovation: A laser-assisted atmospheric plasma deposition technology that offers a high-speed, cost-effective and highly scalable platform approach to the synthesis of nanostructured materials and films for a large area on Li-ion battery electrodes, photovoltaics, industrial coatings, and biomedical materials.
* Grid Link: A cost-effective residential demand response program to utilities by providing an end-to-end solution that includes program development, marketing, and operation.
* ImpactCard: A first-of-its-kind funding mechanism that aggregates consumer credit card reward points as project financing for renewable energy development.
* Green Walker: A removable speed bump that generates power as vehicles pass over it in a simple, cost-effective manner to generate power for things like wireless roadway sensors and roadside accessories.
* HGI: A process that will produce hydrogen by breaking water molecules in cost efficient and clean way.
* Perennial BioEnergy LLC: Development of a biodiesel industry based on pennycress, non-food winter oilseed which can be integrated with summer cash crops such as corn and soybeans.
* Eco-Solutions Inc.: Development of cost-effective renewable energy projects using its closed-loop geothermal technology.  

In Round 2, these teams will present a market analysis and preliminary financial analysis to a panel of judges that includes leaders from the venture capital, business, industry and academic communities. The teams also are required to submit a written summary of their analyses. The judges will assess the teams on their written material as well as their presentation skills. 

Of the 15 teams competing in Round 2, as many as eight teams will advance to the semi-final round that will be held Feb. 17.

The Clean Energy Prize competition was established by DTE Energy and the University of Michigan to encourage entrepreneurship in Michigan and the development of clean-energy technologies. The Masco Corp. Foundation and The Kresge Foundation were Clean Energy Prize founding sponsors and they continue to support the competition.  Additional sponsors include UBS Investment Bank, Google, Huron River Ventures and GM Ventures.

The Center for Entrepreneurship and the UM Ross School of Business’ Ross Energy Club are organizing the competition. Also providing support are several other University of Michigan entities, including Business Engagement Center, The Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute, and the Office of Vice President for Research.

Knut Simonsen, senior vice president, DTE Energy Resources, said it’s encouraging to see both an increase in the number of schools represented in the competition and wider range of ideas.

“It is really interesting to see that teams are looking at ways to finance clean energy businesses along with ideas for new technologies,” Simonsen said. “In the first two years of the competition, the teams were focused almost exclusively on technology. While technology remains central to the competition, it’s great that students also are looking at solving some of the financial hurdles facing clean energy entrepreneurs.”

Bhushan Giri, one of the Ross Energy Club student leaders, said the competition has generated dozens of compelling ideas for new, clean-energy businesses and demonstrates the enthusiasm that students have for entrepreneurship.

”Continuing in the spirit of taking the society towards a clean and sustainable energy future, this year’s competition has generated great clean tech ideas,” Giri said. “It clearly demonstrates the interest and an understanding of the need for clean energy amongst the students of Michigan. We all look forward to the upcoming rounds of the competition, where the ideas will transform into viable business plans.”

Details of the competition are available at www.micleanenergyprize.com.

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