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New $50,000 award honors renewable energy innovation

$50,000 solar awardThe University of Louisville in Kentucky has established a $50,000 award for advanced-stage renewable energy innovations.

“There aren’t a great deal of prizes like this out there,” said Andrew Marsh, assistant director of the Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research at UofL.

The center, which was funded by Hank and Rebecca Conn of Atlanta, focuses on moving renewable energy technologies like solar, wind and biomass, from the lab to commercialization. “This award goes beyond that,” Marsh said.

The Leigh Ann Conn Prize, named for Hank and Rebecca’s late daughter, will recognize outstanding energy ideas or achievements that have shown or will likely have global impact.

This is a way for the couple to recognize more mature solar and other renewable energy innovations. “The Conns have been long-standing supporters of renewable energy,” Marsh said. “They believe continued economic development depends on its successful deployment.”

And since there are not a lot of honors or recognitions for this relatively new sector of research and technology, the Conns wanted to create a way to recognize innovators who are making a difference in the industry.

Nominations are due by March 1 and the award will be presented by the Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research in the fall. The recipient will be expected to speak about his or her renewable energy technology and how it’s making a global impact.

Marsh said the university is publicizing the award by reaching out to media, but it has also formed a nominating committee with members scattered gloabally.

“These people are truly a global committee and they really have their finger on the pulse and know what projects are out there,” Marsh said.

Nominees will be judged on factors such as economic effect, level of challenge, originality, creativity, scientific merit and global impact on energy use and demand reduction. Organizers encourage nominations from scientists, entrepreneurs, engineers, technologists, professional groups, publishers and university leaders.

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