Guest Post by David Gilford, Assistant Director of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, leading the City’s programs to support the growth of the clean technology and advanced energy industries. Follow him on Twitter @dgilford.
In an advanced energy economy, what does innovation look like? Solar panels and electric vehicles may capture attention, but New York City is demonstrating another form of innovation, based on software, data and design.
New York City’s open data competition, NYC BigApps, challenges teams to build mobile and web applications to solve urban challenges, offering $150,000 in cash prizes and access to public data from over 60 local, state and federal agencies. A major focus this year is cleanweb, harnessing the tools of the Internet to address energy and resource issues.
Software can help squeeze the most value out of each dollar we invest in advanced energy hardware, from better targeting of energy efficiency retrofits to reducing the “soft costs” of permitting, financing and installing rooftop solar. Equally important is the economic development opportunity, for local entrepreneurs are creating solutions that could lead to scalable, global businesses.
To encourage such innovation, NYCEDC held the first Cleanweb Developer Day, sponsored by AEE and organized in partnership with Solar One, Pure Energy Partners, NYC ACRE and the Cleanweb Initiative. From morning to night on Saturday, May 18, teams built software for NYC BigApps, supported by mentors from the energy industry, as well as from Internet companies like Google and Rackspace.
By the end of the day, the nearly 100 participants produced 16 projects, from a crossword puzzle-style game that teaches energy literacy to a “Google Street View” to visualize future flood levels. Judges awarded cash prizes to six teams, including the overall winner, Solar List, whose iPhone application gives college students the tools to evaluate potential residential solar installations, giving young people sales experience and reducing customer acquisition costs for solar installers.
The Developer Day lasted only 14 hours, but the innovation continues. Having passed this milestone along the three-month NYC BigApps competition, teams continue to be hard at work ahead of the June 7 submission deadline. Last Wednesday, Solar List and fellow winner WasteCheck, a commercial waste tracking app, had the opportunity to present on a larger stage at the WNYC studio. A packed room and an online audience saw these demos live during the Cleanweb edition of Clean Energy Connections, also sponsored by AEE.
Through programs like NYC BigApps and the two weekend-long hackathons hosted last year, NYC is proving to be at the leading edge of the growing cleanweb movement. According to Blake Burris, CEO of the Cleanweb Initiative, “the NYC model has attracted innovators to focus on the big issues cities face. City officials and organizations from Houston to Milan are excited to adapt the NYC program to stoke entrepreneurial activity.” Using software to complement the physical side of cleantech, these innovators are helping accelerate our transition to an advanced energy economy.
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