CHICAGO (WWJ) —, the Detroit-based startup that has assembled a team of solar energy engineering freelancers, won first place in a new competition at last week’s Solar Power International show in Chicago.

GreenLancer took place in the “Start-Up Alley Challenge,” an event designed to let solar startups gain visibility and access to major industry figures.

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“At so many major events, finding the startup companies with innovative ideas is like looking for a needle in the proverbial haystack,” said Mike Dersohwitz, president of ModSolar and the driving force behind the competition. “Start-up Alley puts all the needles in one place.”

There were 19 semifinalists in the competition, who all got a free booth at

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Winners were judged by a panel of solar industry experts, including Raghu Belur, co-founder and vice president of products and strategic initiatives at Enphase Energy, a Petaluma, Calif. producer of solar electric inverters; David Drescher, vice president of wind and solar at Chicago-based power producer Exelon Generation; Declan Flanagen, CEO of the Chicago solar builder Lincoln Renewable Energy LLC; Adam Lerner, vice president of the Chicago investment firm McNally Capital LLC; Daniel Li of Wanxiang, the Chinese manufacturing firm that recently bought A123 Systems, the battery manufacturer with plants in Livonia and Romulus; Steve Markscheid, a director at JinkoSolar Holding Co., a Chinese solar panel manufacturer; Jigar Shah, the founder of SunEdison and now CEO of New York City-based Jigar Shah Consulting; and Stephen Weiland, a vice president in the cleantech investment banking practice at KPMG Corporate Finance in Chicago.

The judges said GreenLancer won because it took aim at a significant reduction in the soft costs of solar projects, using an e-commerce platform to provide design and engineering services.

“GrenLancer stood out among the competition by demonstrating a visionary and innovative business model,” Shah said.

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View the award ceremony at