The Winners Will Present their Ideas at the ARPA-e SummitStartup community/incubator Ultra Light Startups has created Future Energy, a startup sub-community focused on clean(er) energy and clean-tech. Entrepreneurs can pitch their ideas online and at events around the country. 8 projects, the cream of the crop, will get to present their ideas at the ARPA-e Summit later this month (the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy is a U.S. government-sponsored agency funding advanced energy R&D, kind of like DARPA does for defense tech). 2 of the 8 selected projects will be picked via online voting, and that's where you come in. We encourage you to go check out the projects and vote for your favorites (you can vote for more than one and rank various aspects of each project when you vote). Who knows, maybe one of the 2 projects picked online will end up funded and one day change the world?
An example of an interesting project is Sunfolding by Leila Madrone, a proposal to slash the costs of sun-tracking equipment, thus potentially making large-scale solar farms less expensive:
Our new drive system has the high precision and long lifetimes required for solar tracking, yet costs little more than injection-molded toys. Our tracker replaces heavy duty steel and motor-driven systems with miniature, air-based plastic drives. The approach takes advantage of commodity manufacturing methods and doesn't use high-risk sliding seals as are used in traditional hydraulics or pneumatics. Further, the required mass of our low-profile heliostat is reduced by over 90% due to reduced forces (such as wind and structural loads). This gives us confidence of close to a 10 X reduction in cost compared to current heliostats and 2-axis tracking systems. This, combined with emerging reductions in tower and storage technologies, would make CSP the lowest cost solar energy available. (source)
Another example of an interesting project is: Safe, Dense, Intestine, Conformal, Natural Gas Tank by Tucker Gilman.
While most natural gas comes from fossil sources and thus contributes to global warming, it is significantly less carbon-intensive (about half) than gasoline and burns much cleaner, reducing smog. So a better way to make compressed natural gas (CNG) tanks would certainly be welcome, though I'm not expert on high-pressure tank design and I don't know what the pros and cons of an intestine-like design would be. But it's certainly an interesting idea!
You can see the whole current crop of Future Energy projects here.