“The Capacitor Challenge” Wins XPRIZE Video Contest, Exemplifies Growing Interest in Energy Storage Technology

xprizewinnerToday XPRIZE Foundation announced that “The Capacitor Challenge”, a video calling for innovation in ultracapacitor technology, is the winner of their “What’s Your Crazy Green Idea” video contest [see my previous post about the contest].  The $25,000 prize was awarded to the video creators Kyle Good and Bryan Le of Irvine, California for receiving the most votes for their video entry in the contest.  The “What’s Your Crazy Green Idea” video contest was a call by the XPRIZE Foundation for ideas in the realm of green innovation that may serve as the basis of a goal for a future XPRIZE award.

The XPRIZE Foundation has not made an announcement about an official ultracapacitor XPRIZE yet, but the XPRIZE Foundation has a track record of offering very large prizes to encourage rapid innovation.  Several years ago they awarded a $10 million prize to Scaled Composites for launching the first reusable privately constructed vehicle into space.

Video highlights from the announcement

Read the press releases announcing the contest winner here.

“The Capacitor Challenge” win comes among announcements that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009[1], still in its early legislative phase, currently includes significant incentives for energy storage technologies.  The current draft of the bill allocates $18,500,000,000 for “Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy” through the Department of Energy.  Among the uses for those funds are the following provisions:

(1)  $2,000,000,000 shall be for expenses necessary for energy efficiency and renewable energy research, development, demonstration and deployment activities, to accelerate the development of technologies, to include advanced batteries, of which not less than $800,000,000 is for biomass and $400,000,000 is for geothermal technologies.

(10) $1,000,000,000 shall be for expenses necessary for the manufacturing of advanced batteries authorized under section 136(b)(1)(B) of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (42 U.S.C.17013(b)(1)(B)):

ADVANCED BATTERY LOAN GUARANTEE PROGRAM

For the cost of guaranteed loans as authorized by section 135 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (42 U.S.C. 17012), $1,000,000,000, to remain available until expended: Provided, That of such amount, $10,000,000 shall be used for administrative expenses in carrying out the guaranteed loan program, and shall be in lieu of the amount set aside under section 1106 of this Act: Provided further, That the cost of such loans, including the cost of modifying such loans, shall be as defined in section 502 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974.

This legislation comes only days after a policy brief published by Climate Change Policy Partnership at Duke University called “[t]he U.S. federal government’s research and development funding for energy storage…grossly insufficient.”[2] The brief, which focuses primarily on storage of energy for the electrical grid, explains that “Research, development, and demonstration of promising energy storage technologies are critical to move forward.”

To the extent that ultracapacitors may qualify as “advanced batteries” under the proposed legislation there could be significant new government incentives available for ultracapacitor innovation.  Further, a recent survey by Waggener Edstrom the finding that investors are “particularly optimistic about energy storage[3]” may be an indication that there will be increased funds available from the investment community.

If the news about the XPRIZE contest, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and the investor survey are any indication of excitement in the scientific, investment and legislative communities, we may see real innovation in energy storage technologies in 2009 and the years to come.


[1] http://appropriations.house.gov/pdf/RecoveryBill01-15-09.pdf

[2] http://www.nicholas.duke.edu/ccpp/ccpp_pdfs/energy.storage.pdf

[3] http://www.waggeneredstrom.com/about-us/news/agency-news-02-01-09.aspx


1 thought on ““The Capacitor Challenge” Wins XPRIZE Video Contest, Exemplifies Growing Interest in Energy Storage Technology”

  1. I sorely appreciate this post Jacob. The combinations of incentives may actually revolutionize energy storage in the near future; I was unaware of much of the legislation involved in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, so it is my hope that these spurred interests in battery technology will change our world for the better.

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