Unified Solar, a student team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), won the regional prize of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition at the MIT Clean Energy Prize on April 28. The team takes home the top prize of $100,000 and advances to the national competition.
Monday’s award ceremony was the culmination of the two-day MIT Clean Energy Prize, which featured 19 semi-finalists competing in renewable energy, infrastructure and resources, and energy efficiency categories. Six finalists were selected to advance to the final event, where teams pitched a wide range of technologies, including high efficiency wood stoves, microgrid applications, and nano particles that reduce friction and reverse wear. Unified Solar swept the round, winning the $100,000 Energy Department prize as well as $125,000 from competition sponsor NSTAR.
Unified Solar developed an integrated circuit solution for maximum power point tracking at cell-level granularity, reducing energy loss for solar panels. Solar panel systems with central inverters suffer from the “Christmas tree” or “weakest link” effect—when a shaded or dirty panel reduces the output of every other panel on a string. Panels using Unified Solar’s technology effectively behave as a single “super-cell,” which solves the weakest-link challenge. Unified Solar claims its technology doubles the average energy capture for less than a third of the price of current solutions.
After winning the MIT Clean Energy Prize, Unified Solar is invited to compete at the third annual DOE National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition in Washington, D.C. on June 11 and 12.
The DOE National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition promotes entrepreneurship in clean energy technologies that will boost American competitiveness, bring cutting-edge clean energy solutions to the market, and strengthen our economic prosperity. Previous competitors have gone on to launch 57 start-ups, create 120 jobs, and raise more than $26 million in follow-on funding.