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SunSaluter Wins Social Good Summit’s Startups for Good

   /   Sep 29th, 2011News

A 19-year old woman won the Social Good Summit’s Startups for Good challenge last week. Eden Full’s presentation to the panel of judges as a finalist was so impressive that one of the judges said, “if you’re 19 years old, I have hope for the future.”

Her idea, the SunSaluter, is fundamentally a simple–I’d dare say obvious–one: a device to rotate solar panels as the sun moves throughout the day and as a result, optimize the panels’ output.

Full said that this device alone can increase the efficiency of solar panels by up to 40 percent, adding that it can reduce the payback period by five years. She said that if the SunSaluter were installed on 15 percent of today’s panels by 2030, all of Philadelphia would be carbon-neutral.

And it works passively: this 19-year-old, who said she has been working in this space for nine years, developed a mechanism of metal coils that expand and contract automatically based on external factors, including the movement of the sun.

Full won the $10,000 prize, but the other finalists were also incredibly promising.

One, Sparked, seeks to take advantage of the small chunks of free time that people have throughout a day–10 minutes here, 20 minutes there–and allow them to serve as volunteers for organizations that need help. Instead of asking people to carve out several hours at a time in order to volunteer, Sparked invites organizations to request certain tasks that volunteers can complete on their own schedule: translating text, for example, or fixing broken code for an organization’s website.

The presenter said that if every person that is on Farmville were to devote 10 minutes of volunteer time every day, it would double the current amount of total time spent volunteering in the U.S.

Another finalist proposes to incentivize people to become more efficient in their energy consumption, and to change how utilities engage their customers. Simple Energy has designed a program to gamify energy efficiency: users can register online, calculate their energy consumption and turn efficiency into a competition among friends that are also online. Essentially, the program takes advantage of the popularity of online gaming right now and uses it to encourage individuals to reduce their everyday energy consumption.

Based on the fact that utilities have regulatory requirements for energy efficiency that they are required or financially incentivized to meet, Simple Energy also works directly with utilities to more actively engage with their customers and encourage efficiency.

Kopernik, meanwhile, sought the $10,000 to help scale up its “technology marketplace” for the developing world. It is essentially a distribution model that serves the long-running need to reach rural areas with the most-needed technologies, but adds in the element of feedback from the end user. Instead of organizations deciding or trying to guess what will be most useful for a community, the end users of technologies available through Kopernik can rate individual products. Those ratings are then available for others to see, helping organizations and individuals take user experiences into account when making their own decisions.

The other finalists were emPOWER, Catchafire, Awaaz De, and prove my concept. Congratulations to SunSaluter on the win.

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