Energy & Resources

Overview

As resource constraints and climate change impacts on our planet become more severe, individuals and communities will lack access to the tools and products necessary to live sustainably. The buildup of greenhouse gases has resulted in urgent challenges such as rising global temperatures, extreme weather disasters, and accelerated sea level rise. At the same time, humans are generating 1.3 billion tons of solid waste per year, straining natural resources and highlighting the need for robust conservation and recycling efforts. Nevertheless, innovators around the world are increasingly exploring the potential of sustainable energy resources (such as solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower energy, and biofuels), implementing sophisticated waste management strategies, and incorporating circular economy principles into business strategies. As climate change and resource depletion continue to pose a significant risk to humanity at large, there is an urgent need to make these renewable technologies more accessible, affordable, and reliable.

The Challenge

The challenge for this track is to encourage the adoption of clean energy and/or resource alternatives that are sustainable and have the potential for broad impact. Proposals may focus on the design, development or delivery of green energy solutions that can be domestic or international in scope. All proposals should clearly demonstrate the relationship between the proposed intervention and its impact on the environment.

Solutions may focus on several areas, including but not limited to: (1) clean, renewable energy technology; (2) land/watershed management; (3) climate change adaptation; (4) habitat restoration and/or maintenance; (5) Resource reduction/waste prevention.

Past Winners and Examples

Examples of proposals that would fit into this track include:

  • A project to accelerate governance, policies, or commerce to spur clean energy alternatives.
  • A program to create economic growth based on alternative energy production.
  • A proposal that integrates carbon sequestration into the design process to create better, more environmentally beneficial, buildings.
  • An initiative focused on low-cost, clean energy solutions that foster adaptation and resilience to climate change.
  • A bioplastics business that recycles natural waste into new consumer products.
2019 1st Place - RePurpose Energy
one_village_team
2018 1st Place - One Village Philippines
2019 2nd Place - Wet Technik
trash_to_tiles_team
2018 2nd Place - Trash to Tiles
india_stove_project_team
2019 3rd Place - The Berkeley-India Stove Project
DissolveBio_team
2019 3rd Place - DissolvBio

RePurpose Energy

Team Members:

Ryan Barr, Joseph Lacap

School:

UC Davis

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, solar’s long-term success “depends on the cost-effective integration of energy storage”. Already, excess solar power is often wasted, and California is only a third of the way to its 100% clean energy target. Achievement of this bold goal will require energy storage at scale to harness solar power after sunset. Meanwhile, California will have 5 million electric vehicles on its roads by 2030. Recycling their batteries is expensive, but reuse is economical; over 75% of an EV battery’s original capacity typically remains at the end of its useful life in a vehicle. RePurpose Energy tests, reassembles, and redeploys used electric vehicle batteries to provide commercial solar developers with energy storage solutions at half the cost of new battery alternatives, so they can offer more electricity bill savings, and California can accomplish its clean energy goals.

One Village Philippines

Team Members:

TszHang (Chris) Lee, Aidin Massoumi, Eric Richards, Daniel Vazquez, Lin Hein, Rogelio De Guzman, Yuka Okina, Daniel Witteman, Taewook Kim

School:

UC San Diego

One Village Philippines is a multidisciplinary team of fifteen engineering students within the UC San Diego Global TIES program. This team is working together with the non-profit organization Gawad Kalinga to support its mission of alleviating poverty for communities across the Philippines by providing humanitarian solutions via engineering services. Due to limited lighting, nighttime travel is especially difficult for residents and they often feel unsafe. Additionally, power outages often occur within the community due to electrical failures. Through the development of a sustainable lighting solution, the SolarE team addresses the need for sufficient lighting throughout the village at night and catalyzes social entrepreneurship within the Filipino community by empowering villagers to produce and sell the solar light locally.

Wet Technik

Team Members:

Dennis Ssekimpi, Mark Musinguzi, Nina Shatsi

School:

Makerere University

Wet Technik is a student startup founded at Makerere University looking at reducing the costs of water usage and environmental pollution by hazardous wastewater through the use of constructed wetlands. The team is comprised of three students from a multi-disciplinary background with a shared passion for solving the ever-present problem around wastewater handling and to bring to light the potential of its recycling. Through using a mixture of waste bottle caps and pumice in the constructed wetland, Wet Technik has proven that it will reduce the area requirements, making this system even more accessible to factories, schools and eventually households. The constructed wetland is already the cheapest and easiest way to maintain a system to recycle grey water making it very attractive to people in Uganda.

Trash to Tiles

Team Members:

Paige Balcom, Alexander Wang, Juliana Cabrera, Stephanie Solove, Jeremy Lan

School:

UC Berkeley

Plastic waste. Poor roofing. Unemployment. Poverty. — Four developing world problems with one solution. In sixty years, the world has produced 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic and recycled only 9%. In developing countries, plastic waste is generally burned, releasing pollutants into the atmosphere. Quality roofing material is often unaffordable for many subsistence farmers and poor urban dwellers. Trash to Tiles (T3) addresses all of these issues by changing the paradigm to use plastic waste as a vast, profitable resource. T3’s innovative, energy and cost efficient technology produces quality, affordable roofing tiles from recycled plastic using only one machine which entrepreneurs can easily finance. Housing is made safer and more comfortable, and plastic waste and atmospheric pollution are reduced. The franchise business model empowers local entrepreneurs to achieve economic independence and enables Trash to Tiles to scale rapidly.

The Berkeley-India Stove Project

Team Members:

Samantha Hing, Matthew Mayes

School:

UC Berkeley

The ultimate goal of the Berkeley India Stove (BIS) Project is to deliver the BIS into the hands of the poorest 830 million people in India suffering from exposure to indoor air pollution due to their daily use of inefficient biomass cookstoves. An essential component of the project is to ensure the sustained adoption and long-term usage of the BIS, which reduces smoke emissions and fuelwood consumption by as much as 50% compared to traditional Indian stoves. The BIS is one of the best available cookstoves in the Indian market considering a performance to price ratio. Bolstered by strong partnerships on the ground and a comprehensive business plan, including innovative strategies for dissemination and monitoring, the BIS has the potential to dramatically curtail the harmful impacts of this critical environmental, health, and socioeconomic issue caused by inefficient stoves.

DissolvBio

Team Members:

Ryan Kenneally, William Sharpless, Hannah Grossman, Jason Hou

School:

UC Berkeley

Billions of pounds of polyethylene are produced each year, and unfortunately this compound can take thousands of years to break down. Polyethylene has also been linked to human cancers, groundwater toxification, and environmental damage. A reliable means of breaking down polyethylene is necessary and would have a huge impact. Unfortunately, microbial degradation of polyethylene is not common in nature. Polyethylene has been around for less than 100 years and enzyme evolution takes millennia, so microbes have not had enough time to develop this ability. However, recent techniques in Directed Evolution allow researchers to take evolution into the lab and speed it up to thousands of times its natural rate. This project proposes to apply Directed Evolution techniques to a specific enzyme tied to polyethylene degradation in order to create a novel enzyme capable of degrading polyethylene efficiently and reducing global plastic waste.

SEPT
2020

18

Come get inspired by Big Ideas alumni and their stories of how they transformed their early-stage idea into a successful social venture.