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May 07, 2014

National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition: Unified Solar Wins at MIT Clean Energy Prize

Unified Solar, a student team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), won the regional prize of the Energy Department’s National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition at the MIT Clean Energy Prize on April 28. The team takes home the top prize of $100,000 and advances to the national competition.

The April 28 award ceremony was the culmination of the two-day MIT Clean Energy Prize, which featured 19 semi-finalists competing in renewable energy, infrastructure and resources, and energy efficiency categories. Six finalists were selected to advance to the final event, where teams pitched a wide range of technologies, including high efficiency wood stoves, microgrid applications, and nano particles that reduce friction and reverse wear. Unified Solar swept the round, winning the $100,000 Energy Department prize as well as $125,000 from competition sponsor NSTAR.

Unified Solar developed an integrated circuit solution for maximum power point tracking at cell-level granularity, reducing energy loss for solar panels. Solar panel systems with central inverters suffer from the “Christmas tree” or “weakest link” effect—when a shaded or dirty panel reduces the output of every other panel on a string. Panels using Unified Solar’s technology effectively behave as a single “super-cell,” which solves the weakest-link challenge. Unified Solar claims its technology doubles the average energy capture for less than a third of the price of current solutions. For the complete story, see the EERE Blog.