So, today marks the start of the judging in the second GE ECOimagination Challenge -- an innovation competition intended to identify and fund ideas and technologies focused on residential energy conservation and renewable energy. There were more than 800 submissions, which will make the judging challenge tough: there are five $100,000 prizes at stake. But for at least two companies, the competition has already been potentially lucrative: the entrepreneurs behind two of the 10 most popular ideas (according to voting by Web site visitors) are toying with a collaboration that integrates their business models.
Those two ideas are the SmartWind Ridgeblaster, a wind turbine that is designed to fit into the ridge of gable roofs. The technology, which has a diameter of about 22 inches, costs about $4,000 for a 1.8-kilowatt capacity system. Right off the bat, that is a lot smaller than most other conventional technologies. The video below explains the concept.
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But here is what makes things even more interesting: the Ridgeblaster includes an inverter that also accepts photovoltaic (PV) technology. Enter the Fresnel PV Concentrator, which is a rooftop solar module that can capture heat and generate electricity. It just so happens that it is possible to combine this PV concentrator with the Ridgeblaster.
SOOOO, the two innovators behind these ideas, James Post (for the wind turbine) and Shawn Buckley (for the solar module) have come up with a plan that combines their two technologies. Here are two reasons this is important:
- The installation costs for putting the two technologies isn't much larger than those for doing either of the systems along BUT the homeowner will get more renewable energy potential.
- The two systems can share an inverter that turns direct current into alternating current; which translates into a cost savings over installing the two systems separately.
Regardless of who winds up with GE's moolah, the competition is great for exposing ideas like this to the general public, especially the growing number of citizens worldwide who are interested in renewable energy alternatives -- not necessarily because they are treehuggers but because they are sick of being held hostage by fossil fuels.