Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul at the 76West Competition.

Innovative Startups Sparking Clean Energy Growth in the Southern Tier Economy

76West competition winners from around the world are growing clean energy technologies in New York State

The 76West Clean Energy Competition—one of the largest competitions in the country for growing clean energy businesses—generates robust economic development in New York State’s Southern Tier.

The competition’s economic impact supports Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's Green New Deal, the nation’s most aggressive climate change strategy, which encourages the development and deployment of clean energy systems and technologies like those competing in 76West. The goal: to put the state on a path to carbon neutrality while also spurring growth of the green economy.

Now in its fifth round, 76West attracts innovative clean energy startups in the Southern Tier by awarding $2.5 million annually to stimulate business growth and  commercial success. The competition has jumpstarted a cleantech boom in the region, bringing fresh ideas, talent and jobs.

The grand prize is $1 million, followed by three $500,000 awards. Chosen from a geographically diverse slate of highly qualified applicants, the winners of the fourth round were announced in September 2019.

“The million-dollar top prize is the largest a company can win in any clean energy competition, anywhere,” says Mike Shimazu, the senior advisor for business growth and innovation at the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the competition’s sponsor. “But it’s really all about the Southern Tier—and familiarizing those in and  outside of New York—with the region, its dynamic business climate and host of resources for forward-thinking clean-energy companies.”

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul making an announcement.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul makes the announcement about EkoStinger’s new manufacturing plant opening in 2019.

76West helps bring the finalists to the region and matches them with mentors from the area, including executives, investors and entrepreneurs who can then connect them with potential strategic partners.

“During that process, our winners learn that $1 million isn’t necessarily the biggest part of the prize. It’s what they learn about the manufacturing resources, the business incubators in the area, the research, facilities and talent at Binghamton and Cornell, and the funding and support we provide at NYSERDA. That’s really what gets them excited about expanding their businesses in the Southern Tier. It’s the whole package.”

Competition participants are also  introduced to the region’s business and academic community through another of the Southern Tier’s key renewable energy resources: the on-campus business incubator.

“The Southern Tier Clean Energy Incubator at Binghamton University, one of six NYSERDA clean energy incubators across the state, has become a landing spot for many of the companies who participated in all three 76West competitions,” says Shimazu. “It’s a wonderful facility and they’ve done a nice job of convening the region’s innovation ecosystem, not just in Binghamton, but reaching into Cornell and Corning,“ the 168-year-old multinational technology company in the region that makes specialty glass and advanced optics. “And that kind of ecosystem building, along with NYSERDA research and development funding, has been taken advantage of by 76West winners. It’s a really synergistic set of offerings beyond the cash prizes.”

Winners of the 76West competition have raised a combined $29 million of private capital investment to accelerate the development of their technologies. In addition, winning companies have solidified key partnerships, created more than 60 jobs, and helped customers access clean energy solutions. 

Technologies developed by these companies have run the gamut from grid-monitoring optical sensors and solar thermal technologies, to smart home energy efficiency products and aerodynamic trucking solutions.

EkoStinger’s patented, full-motion aerodynamic trailer system at their factory.

The competition’s first-year $1 million winner, Micatu, has a partnership with power management company Eaton to integrate Micatu's next-generation optical sensing technology into its products. Two additional first-year winners have also secured important partnerships to propel the sector forward. Battery innovator C4V leads a $130 million New York State battery consortium, while Global Thermostat has a joint development agreement with ExxonMobil to capture and concentrate carbon dioxide emissions.

The 2018 grand prize winner, EkoStinger—a Rochester-based company—makes a patented, full-motion aerodynamic trailer system for heavy-duty trucks that haul products across the country. The company’s award-winning product is designed to keep aerodynamics consistent through the full range of truck and trailer motion, saving fuel, and reducing emissions and wear and tear. Some EkoStinger customers, who pull up to 48-foot trailers, report higher visibility behind them during rainstorms, since the trailer system eliminates excessive tire spray.

On Feb.12, 2019, Governor Cuomo announced another major milestone for EkoStinger, with the opening of its manufacturing plant in Big Flats, west of Elmira. “The overall experience of 76West has made us a better company,” said EkoStinger CEO Parr Wiegel.

For the competition’s fourth round, NYSERDA received 169 applications representing 14 countries and 21 states. Eighteen semifinalists participated in a two-day pitch session this summer at Binghamton University. Judges then recommended the top six winners.

The 2019 grand prize winner, Pittsburgh-based Optimus Technologies, is the market leader in high-performance biodiesel conversion solutions that utilize biodiesel (B100) and diesel for medium and heavy-duty fleets and can reduce fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80%.

The competition’s fifth round is currently accepting applicants until March 2, 2020. 

For more information on 76West, visit; or to learn more about New York state’s commitment to clean energy, please visit: