NASA seeks out-of-this-world energy innovations

🚀 SPACE: NASA, in cooperation with crowdsourcing platform HeroX, is opening a prize competition to incentivize the development of energy technologies that could be used on the moon to support sustained human presence and the beginning of industrial activity there. Although solar energy is abundant in space, usage gaps exist during the long lunar nighttime hours and are exacerbated by extreme temperature changes.

  • In the first competition phase, teams will submit an energy distribution, management, and/or storage solution that could help with space flights and potential use on the surface of the moon.
  • Up to $5 million in prize money will be available through the competition. Registration is now open and will run through March 25. Winners from phase one will be announced in May.
  • NASA believes some of the technologies spawned from this competition could also be useful for tackling energy challenges on Earth and could result in commercial development.

🔌 UTILITIES: St. Louis-based utility Ameren announced a commitment to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 across all operations in Illinois and Missouri, in addition to its largest-ever solar and wind power generation expansion. Technological advances are part of the commitment.

🌊 WATER: The Cleveland Innovation Project is making a push to advance more businesses focused on developing water technologies, a sector that has experienced “stunning” growth in recent years, reports Crain’s Cleveland Business.


  • School bus company Cook-Illinois Corporation shares lessons for cutting greenhouse gas emissions in business operations, with a detailed look at its evolution toward buses that run on cleaner, renewable fuels instead of diesel.
  • A sales manager at Ohio-based electric truck startup Lordstown Motors explains in a Q&A interview with CleanTechnica why vehicle electrification is important and what the future of the industry looks like.

🏆 HONORS: CounterFlow Technologies is the runner-up for this year’s MN Cup startup competition grand prize and also won the Energy/Cleantech/Water division. The business developed a more efficient spray nozzle that could cut energy consumption and carbon emissions in industry. Harvest Nation, an indoor aeroponic farm startup launched by Native American women in northern Minnesota, received honors for being the top veteran-owned business.

  • New Mexico utility subsidiary PNM is partnering with Sandia National Laboratories on research and development projects focused on energy resiliency and clean energy. Some specific areas of exploration are carbon-free power generation technologies, networked microgrids, and energy storage technologies.
  • Department of Energy officials visited Oak Ridge National Laboratory for ribbon-cutting events to highlight new capabilities at ORNL facilities for energy-efficient recycling and recovery technologies for autonomous vehicles and other advanced manufacturing materials.
  • Also at Oak Ridge, scientists are using new techniques to create a composite that boosts copper wires’ electrical current capacity. The intent is for this to be used in ultra-efficient, power-dense electric vehicle motors.
ORNL scientists created long lengths of a composite copper-carbon nanotube material with improved properties for use in electric vehicle traction motors. Credit: Andy Sproles/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy.


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