ORNL unveils five entrepreneurs, four companies in inaugural “Innovation Crossroads” cohort

NOTE: This article was originally published on Teknovation.biz by Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer of PYA.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) set a goal of finding up to five of the nation’s top young energy innovators and, by all accounts, it appears the recruiting team has achieved its goal with the inaugural cohort for the “Innovation Crossroads.”

ORNL leaders publicly unveiled the four start-ups at an event yesterday in Oak Ridge attended by the innovators, researchers with whom they will be working, and two top administrators from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Related: New accelerator program “Innovation Crossroads” to advanced energy technology ideas

“If you look five, 10, 15 or 20 years ahead, where is the innovation going to come from to continue our nation’s economic growth,” Mark Johnson, Director of DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office, asked. His answer was “programs like this.” Joining Johnson from DOE headquarters was Johanna Wolfson, Director of the Technology-to-Market Program.

In a conversation ahead of the event, Johnson described “Innovation Crossroads” and two similar programs at other DOE labs as a post-doc program. After all, the five innovators have either earned their Ph.Ds. or are in the process of completing them.

For ORNL, yesterday’s announcement was the culmination of a process that began more than six months ago with a solicitation of applications. Day-to-day responsibility for “Innovation Crossroads” is being handled by Tom Rogers, ORNL’s Director of Industrial Partnerships and Economic Development, and Beth Conerty, Program Lead for Entrepreneurial Support and Development.

As described in this September 20 article from teknovation.biz, the program is part of a DOE effort to help accelerate clean energy technologies in an era of substantially limited venture capital. The ORNL initiative is the third in DOE’s Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Program (LEEP). The pilot, named “Cyclotron Road,” was tested at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and a second program, named “Chain Reaction Innovations,” started last year at Argonne National Laboratory.

Read the full article here.

First deadline approaches for Clean Tennessee Energy Grants

The pre-proposal submission deadline for the Clean Tennessee Energy Grant program is nearly a month away.

You have until Tuesday, February 28 to submit your pre-proposals.

This comes as the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) Commissioner Bob Martineau announced $1.5 million is available in grant funding for clean energy projects statewide. The sixth round of funding will include specific eligibility criteria to purchase, install and construct environmental mitigation projects.

Screen Shot 2017-01-19 at 4.56.01 PMThe Clean Tennessee Energy Grant (CTEG) program provides financial assistance to municipal governments, county governments, utility districts and other entities created by statute. Criteria include projects that reduce air emissions, improve energy efficiency and create cost savings including projects focused on:

  • Cleaner alternative energy – biomass, geothermal, solar, wind;
  • Energy conservation – lighting, HVAC improvements, improved fuel efficiency, insulation, idling minimization;
  • Air quality improvement – reduction in greenhouse gases, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, oxides of nitrogen, hazardous air pollutants.

Funding preference will be given to distressed counties identified by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development and counties that have not previously received CTEG funding. Additionally, projects must have a simple payback of less than 10 years on the entire project budget.

Funding for the projects comes from a 2011 Clean Air Act settlement with the Tennessee Valley Authority. Under the Consent Decree, Tennessee received $26.4 million to fund clean air programs in the state. The funding schedule is as follows:

  • February 28, 2017: Pre-Proposal submission deadline
  • March 24, 2017: Full proposals (by invitation only) contacted for additional items
  • April 21, 2017: Full proposal supplemental information submission deadline
  • Fall 2017: Announcement of recipients

The minimum grant request is $5,000 and the maximum grant request is $250,000, with a 50% match or better from the applicant.

For more information about eligibility criteria and which distressed counties apply, please visit TDEC’s website.

ARiES Energy celebrates five year anniversary

ARiES Energy marked five years of success in East Tennessee by inviting colleagues, customers and friends to Five Bar in Downtown Knoxville.

ARiES Energy is a TAEBC member. The company strives to make clean energy easy, accessible, and affordable to its clients. ARiES Energy installs solar photovoltaic, solar thermal, LED lighting, power conditioning, energy efficiency products/services and biomass/waste-to-energy technologies for commercial businesses, residences and municipalities in the Southeast.

Previous Story: ARiES Energy, Signal Energy make 2016 Top 500 North American Solar Contractors List

During the anniversary celebrations, ARiES Energy President Harvey Abouelata made an announcement over his company’s growth revealing ARiES Energy will be expanding to South Carolina.

TAEBC had a chance to talk with Abouelata after the anniversary. If you don’t know, Abouelata founded ARiES Energy in 2011 to help communities transition into a new economic future, moving away from fossil fuels towards renewable natural resources and zero waste.

Harvey Abouelata, President of ARiES Energy (Credit: ARiES Energy)

As president he oversees sales, product development, and marketing of residential and commercial products and services for power production. He has extensive experience in business management, business planning, strategy, sales, marketing, promotions, public relations, implementation, and new technology brand identity with a concentration in the renewable energy field.

During his career in the solar industry, Abouelata has succeeded in bringing millions of dollars in grants to local companies and the state of Tennessee. He also made the decision to merge ARiES Energy in 2015 with PHG Energy (PHGE) and Thompson Machinery.

Abouelata has passion in his work, and it could be felt while TAEBC spoke with him briefly over the phone.

Q: Five years is a great milestone, when you look back are you pleased with your company’s success? 

A: Yes, absolutely. I feel we’ve achieved that ten-fold. Before ARiES Energy was born, the concept was novelty…maybe, kinda…everybody liked the idea…wasn’t sure it was possible. But here’s the thing, it’s relevant. Times are changing, and it’s exciting to see the hard work happening at ARiES Energy.

(L to R) Harvey Abouelata, Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, and Erin Gill.

(L to R) Harvey Abouelata, Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, and Erin Gill. (Credit: ARiES Energy)

Q: What does it mean to you to be a part of the clean energy industry in Tennessee?

A: Ya know, it’s one of those feel good things. It’s exciting to go to work knowing it helps people and putting a big focus on economic development. You put that together there’s this creation that’s ultimately better for the environment. It’s something to be proud of. We have 18 people employed here at ARiES Energy and it’s almost like a pep rally. They (Employees) feel like they are making a difference in energy independence.

Another thing, it’s not just clean energy. It’s making it here in the U.S. It’s a very positive thing. Some people may take our mountains and lakes for granted, but I see it as ARiES Energy is protecting our precious resources.

(L to R) ARiES Energy President Harvey Abouelata speaking with Daniel Green and Jerry Askew.

(L to R) ARiES Energy President Harvey Abouelata speaking with Daniel Green and Jerry Askew. (Credit: ARiES Energy)

Q: ARiES Energy is growing the market for community and commercial solar projects, any specific projects that stick out that you’re proud of?

A: That’s like asking me to pick a favorite child! They’re all great! That’s not fair! Every one of our projects is exciting in its own unique way because it’s one step forward on the path to energy independence and helping the environment. I will say though, we have great clients. We’re blessed with who we work with. The momentum keeps building here, and our clients are taking it to the next level. Our clients are an extension of who we are as a company and as a team. But AEC partnering with us to build one of the largest community solar projects in Tennessee, that’s huge!

Q: Where do you see ARiES Energy going in the next five years? Any particular goals? You mentioned how the company is expanding to South Carolina at the 5th Anniversary…

A: We have a pretty aggressive expansion plan. Ever since we sold the company to PHG Energy and Thompson Machinery, we’ve got resources that have given us the luxury to expand. We’ve been spending a lot of time building a solid plan to South Carolina. We’re also considering expanding to Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Mississippi, and Texas. Of course that’s all on the horizon for 2017. Every year we’ve doubled in sales, and I don’t see why we wouldn’t keep expanding. We’ve hired six people this year alone and what’s important to us is that all of our employees have high quality standards. I love when I walk in to work because our employees those are people I would pick as personal friends, not just employees.

Are you a TAEBC member with news to share? Contact deborah@piper-communications.com and we’ll feature you and your company on the blog.

Today last day to apply for clean energy accelerator Innovation Crossroads

Clean energy entrepreneurs have only a few hours left to apply for an Oak Ridge National Laboratory accelerator that could solve America’s energy challenges.

screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-12-31-46-pmInnovation Crossroads is a new program based at ORNL that matches aspiring energy entrepreneurs with the experts, mentors, and networks in technology-related fields to take their world-changing ideas from research and development (R&D) to the marketplace.

Through an annual call, up to five entrepreneurs will be selected to transform their ideas into clean energy companies with financial support from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). Innovators will receive a fellowship that covers living costs, benefits and a travel stipend for up to two years, plus up to $350,000 to use on collaborative research and development at ORNL. Each innovator will also be paired with a doctoral student from the University of Tennessee’s Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education for assistance with market research and customer discovery.

“There is a huge opportunity and need to develop an emerging American energy ecosystem where cleantech entrepreneurs can thrive,” said Mark Johnson, director of EERE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO). “This program gives the next generation of clean energy innovators a chance to make a transformative impact on the way we generate, process and use our energy resources. Innovation Crossroads will play an important role in strengthening the Southeast region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Innovation Crossroads was announced back in September and is the most recent clean energy accelerator to launch at a DOE national laboratory and the first located in the Southeast. ORNL is the nation’s largest science and energy laboratory, with expertise and resources in clean energy, computing, neutron science, advanced materials, and nuclear science.

The deadline to apply is today Friday, November 18, 2016 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time. For a look at the application, go to innovationcrossroads.ornl.gov

DOE webinar reveals opportunities, challenges in southeast for advancing clean energy

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) hosted a “Regional Energy Technology Innovation” webinar in late September inviting leading research universities to present their findings examining the clean energy technology innovation in their respective regions.

screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-2-43-40-pmThe universities held forums earlier this year and each forum was attended by leaders from federal, state, and local governments; industry, DOE national laboratories; academia; and nongovernmental organizations.

The forums highlighted the differences among regions in terms of their energy needs, resources, and vulnerabilities; customer demands, markets and capabilities. A key conclusion of the regional forums is that clean energy solutions must be tailored to meet regional needs.

These forums were held in part of DOE’s “Mission Innovation.” Mission Innovation is a multinational initiative to dramatically accelerate public and private global clean energy innovation that was announced at the United-Nations climate-change conference in Paris on November 30, 2015.

doeDuring the webinar, six different regions of the U.S. including the mid-atlantic, southwestern, northwestern, northeastern, midwest, and southeastern made presentations and spoke about the key takeaways, opportunities, priorities, challenges and next steps within their regions to achieve the driving force needed for maximum clean energy technology innovation.

The southeastern presentation was done by the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. The university’s vice chancellor of research and engagement, Dr. Taylor Eighmy, spoke about how the southeast’s area of expertise involved government-university-industry-national lab collaboration as well as rapid innovation and tech to market movement.

Dr. Eighmy said some of the major opportunities for the southeast include supportive state governments and a supportive investment community and innovator ecosystems. The southeast also has a strong industrial influence and their supply chains are beneficial.

According to Dr. Eighmy’s presentation, some of the main priorities and clean energy research and development focus areas for the southeast include advanced manufacturing, integrated grid management, bio-derived fuels and CO2 capture, nuclear energy and sustainable smart communities.

However, one of the greatest challenges the southeast faces in terms of advancing clean energy technology innovation is a need for improved business processes focusing on the speed of connecting industry to science and technology.

As the southeast moves forward, it will direct strategic collaborations tied to regional innovation needs, workforce needs, and especially innovation accelerators and private/foundation investment efforts in the clean energy technology space.