Georgia Tech Students Top Clemson and UMD in DOE $100,000 ACC Clean Energy Challenge Final Four

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Eric Schurr
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Pictured: The winning Georgia Tech team at the 2014 ACC Clean Energy Challenge.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — A team of four students from the Georgia Institute of Technology developing a new electrical power grid technology with an Internet-like control architecture won the third annual ACC Clean Energy Challenge and the Department of Energy’s $100,000 grand prize, competition officials announce today.

The Georgia Tech team presented their technology to a panel of expert judges from the clean energy community at the ACC Clean Energy Challenge Final Four on March 26 at the University of Maryland, the competition host and organizer. The team, which includes graduate students Marcelo Sandoval, Jennifer Howard, Mitch Costley and Eric Crane, now moves on to represent the southeast region in the DOE National Clean Energy Business Plan Finals, to be held in Washington, D.C., on June 11-12, 2014.

Winning second place was Clemson University's Brewcovery, whose team is developing bio-separation and bio-digestion processes to recover and refine value-added co-products from the food industry and brewery waste.

The daylong ACC Clean Energy Challenge finals event began with ten semifinalist teams from the southeast region representing Clemson, Duke, Georgia Tech, North Carolina State University, University of Alabama, University of Maryland, University of Miami and Virginia Tech. Following the semi-finals round, Georgia Tech, Clemson and two University of Maryland teams advanced to the competition’s Final Four, where judges selected Energy Internet as the ACC Clean Energy Challenge Champion. The $100,000 prize and ACC Clean Energy Cup were presented by Dr. Darryll Pines, Dean of the Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, Dean Chang, Associate VP, Academy for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, University of Maryland, and Jennifer Garson, Technology-to-Market Analyst, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy.

ACC Clean Energy Challenge winner Energy Internet is developing a new electric power grid approach and solution with a decentralized, autonomous, Internet-like control architecture and a learning control software system. The proposed architecture leverages smart grid investment in sensing and communications and is massively scalable and incrementally deployable, enabling grid flexibility and numerous desirable value propositions, according to the Georgia Tech team. The new architecture is based on the emerging concept of electricity "Prosumers," i.e., economically motivated parties (residential, commercial, industrial and institutional) that can produce, consume or store electricity as determined by their unique needs and capabilities.

The Clemson Brewcovery team is developing a bio-separation and bio-digestion system to create energy and additional products from food industry and brewery waste while reducing the carbon footprint of these facilities. Those products could include bio-lipids for biofuel production, organic nitrogen and phosphorus rich soil amendments, and high protein animal feeds. 

The ACC Clean Energy Challenge event featured keynote speaker Mark Johnson, Director, Advanced Manufacturing Office, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy and former Program Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).

Also featured was a Clean Energy panel discussion focusing on the role of the government, private sector and venture community in the development of clean energy technologies that included: Joshua Greene, Partner, Deputy Chair, Energy and Environment Practice, Patton Boggs LLP; Ed Greer, Ph.D., Manager, Ventures & Business Development, The Dow Chemical Company; Barri Gurau, Senior Manager, Corporate Energy Initiatives, Corporate Engineering & Technology, Lockheed Martin Corporation; and Dr. Mark Johnson, Director, Advanced Manufacturing Office, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy.

Judges for the ACC Clean Energy Challenge included the panelists mentioned above, as well as: David Beugelmans, Policy Advisor, Maryland Energy Administration; John Blackburn, Co-Founder, Liquid Lignin Company; Bryan Blackburn, Chief Technology Office and Board Member, Redox Power Systems; Ike Brenner, CEO, Ozmosis Inc.; Akbar Dawood, Venture Analyst, Mtech Ventures, University of Maryland; Wade Fulghum, Assistant Director, Venture Development, Office of Technology Transfer at North Carolina State University; Ben Hill, Principal, VentureLab at Georgia Tech Institute of Technology; Douglas Hirt, Professor and Department Chair, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Clemson University; Daniel Kunitz, Director, DC I-Corps Accelerator; Kimberlee Robertella Glinka, Assistant Director, Marketing & Sustainability at The Center for Social Value Creation at the Robert H. Smith School of Business; Helena Solo-Gabriele, Professor & Associate Dean for Research, College of Engineering, University of Miami; Satish Tamboli, Venture Advisor, Mtech Ventures, University of Maryland; Matthew Trussoni, Assistant Professor in Practice, College of Engineering, University of Miami.

The $100K ACC Clean Energy Challenge is a business plan competition encouraging students from all universities throughout the southeastern United States to develop business plans for new clean energy companies focused on renewable energy, energy efficiency improvements and advanced fuels/vehicles. As part of the Obama Administration’s effort to support and empower the next generation of American clean energy entrepreneurs, the Department of Energy selected the ACC Clean Energy Challenge and five additional regional competitions in the U.S. as part of its inaugural nationwide network of student-focused clean energy business plan competitions over the next three years.

For more information about the competition, visit:

About the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
The DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy invests in clean energy technologies that strengthen the economy, protect the environment, and reduce dependence on foreign oil. Learn more about DOE’s efforts to promote a new generation of energy entrepreneurs at:

About the A. James Clark School of Engineering

The University of Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering is a premier program, ranked among the top 20 in the world. Located just a few miles from Washington, D.C., the Clark School is at the center of a constellation of high-tech companies and federal laboratories, offering students and faculty access to unique professional opportunities.

Our broad spectrum of academic programs, including the world’s only accredited undergraduate fire protection engineering program, is complemented by a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem, early hands-on educational experiences, and participation in national and international competitions.

The Clark School is leading research advancements in aerospace, bioengineering, robotics, nanotechnology, disaster resilience, energy and sustainability, and cybersecurity. From the universal product code to satellite radio, SMS text messaging to the implantable insulin pump, our students, faculty, and alumni are engineering life-changing innovations for millions. Learn more at



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