The Katerva Awards are given annually to excellent sustainability ideas and initiatives in 10 categories. Finalists are announced in September each year. A single winner in each category will be selected by a panel of experts in that category and announced in October each year. A grand prize winner will be selected among category winners and announced as the best new sustainability effort of the year.
Energy & Power
The global energy equation is one quite damaging to the atmosphere and environment. Carbon emissions are perhaps the largest problem to result from current energy systems. This category covers new technologies and innovations in energy production, storage, and delivery. It also includes technologies and initiatives focused on cleaning up current power systems.
Barefoot Power, 2011 Katerva Awards Energy & Power Winner
More than $10 billion is spent each year on kerosene for lighting the homes of the poor in developing countries. Barefoot Power helps poor families stop spending their scarce cash by providing a safer and cheaper option. Barefoot Power designs and manufactures technologies specifically for people with limited incomes. Their operations currently take place in 15 countries throughout Africa and Asia. Their approach is to provide alternatives to lighting fuels such as kerosene, while developing a new method for rural electrification. Barefoot Power’s alternative lighting products integrate polycrystalline solar panels (simpler and cheaper to produce than the more common monopolycrystalline panels) and LED lights.
Innowattech, runner up
Researchers at Innowattech and Technion Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel have discovered a new way to generate clean energy by converting the mechanical energy from highways and railroads into electricity. Every day, the weight of vehicles on roads and trains on railroad tracks compresses the ground and generates mechanical energy, lost in the form of heat. Instead of letting this energy go to waste, piezo-electric generators embedded in road surfaces convert the pressure into electric current, similar to how rubbing surfaces together generates static electricity. The energy harvesting generators can be installed under highways, railways, and even airport runways and sidewalks. They fit within existing infrastructure, are low maintenance, and function independent of weather conditions.
Nanosolar, runner up
Nanosolar is the leader in printing thin films for solar energy. Through its industrial printing process that coats CIGS (Copper, Indium, Gallium, Selenium) and nanoparticle inks on low-cost aluminum foil, Nanosolar minimizes the need for expensive high-vacuum manufacturing equipment while using a low-cost roll-to-roll manufacturing process. Nanosolar’s mission is to become the lowest cost solar cell and panel manufacturer.
OPX BIO, runner up
OPXBIO is a Colorado-based company manufacturing renewable bio-based chemicals and fuels. The company uses a proprietary Efficiency Directed Genome Engineering (EDGE) technology. The OPX EDGE technology platform enables rapid, rational, and robust optimization of microbes and bioprocesses to manufacture bioproducts with equivalent performance and improved sustainability at lower cost compared to petroleum-based alternatives. OPX EDGE identifies the genes that control microbial metabolism and then implement a comprehensive, rational genetic change strategy to simultaneously optimize microbial production pathways and vitality as well as overall bioprocess productivity.
Sun Catalytix, runner up
In mimicking what plants do best, a group of MIT chemists led by Dr. Dan Nocera has developed the first artificial leaf that can feasibly convert sunlight and water to energy in an affordable and accessible way. Simulating photosynthesis’ elegant system for transforming sun and water into electricity has long been a scientific conundrum. The Nocera lab has been working over the years to solve this challenge and now has developed a playing card-sized “leaf” that is more similar to its natural counterpart in function than in appearance. A thin sheet of metal, electronics, and synthetically-created catalysts are all that are needed to break down water into hydrogen and oxygen, which then can be stored conveniently in a fuel cell for electricity generation. It is made from available and inexpensive materials – nickel, silicon, cobalt – that make it easier for fabrication and distribution worldwide. It can also operate for 45 hours continuously and is about ten times more efficient at photosynthesis than nature herself.