Competition Sparks Innovation in Clean Energy

What better way to inspire the best and brightest to push innovations in clean energy than by bringing them together for some friendly competition with a total of $20 million in prize money and support?

This is exactly what the Southern Tier’s 76West did. Modeled after the successful 43North business competition in Western New York that awards financial assistance, incubator space and mentorship to cutting-edge startups. 76West, run by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, directly advances Governor Cuomo's Clean Energy Standard initiative calling for 50 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030. As a condition of the competition, winners are expected to be located in – or move their operations to – Allegany, Broome, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, Chenango, Delaware, Schuyler, Steuben, Tompkins or Tioga counties.

The annual competition, launched in 2016, has already resulted in some unexpected innovations. One is a dye that keeps windows transparent but blocks ultraviolet radiation, keeping buildings cooler and reducing the need for air conditioning. Another is rethinking the standard power grid, with an optical-based modular solution that creates efficiencies within power systems to identify energy savings at a large scale.

This year’s six award winners, announced on Aug. 16, represent companies across New York and the U.S, and energy-saving innovations aimed at reducing fossil fuel consumption, increasing wastewater treatment capacity, reducing greenhouse gases and more.

BessTech, a winner in last year’s competition, pitched a solution to prolonging the life of cell phone and laptop batteries; something to ease a familiar frustration in our always connected society – when losing power means losing touch or losing business.

BessTech develops eco-friendly, silicon-based electrodes that extend battery life. Like the other 2016 winners, BessTech is fueling an evolving entrepreneurial business community extending across New York State. The clean energy industry is focused on everything from innovations that address climate change, to growing jobs and ensuring clean tech innovation for years to come.

For BessTech, which took home a $250,000 seed prize, creating more efficient battery components is part of a larger goal to revolutionize phones and laptops from the inside out with their lighter, faster and more powerful batteries. Founded in 2010 at the Center of Excellence in Nanoelectronics and Nanotechnology (CENN) based at SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Albany, BessTech credits its ability to develop and produce products more quickly than most similarly sized businesses due to its access to the university’s specialized tools, expertise and equipment.