Resnick Sustainability Institute Alumni Honored in Department of Energy Business Plan Competition
PASADENA, CA – JUNE 11, 2013
A team of students who worked with Caltech’s Resnick Sustainability Institute have won second place in the western finals of a recent DOE (Department of Energy) business plan competition. Chai Energy is developing a mobile phone app for monitoring energy usage in the home. This has the potential of enabling consumers to understand and manage their energy usage in real time and lead to savings of both energy and money.
Chai was formed as a result of a group of California Institute of Technology (Caltech) students working together on a Resnick Sustainability Institute-sponsored team in the US Solar Decathlon, a competition focused on building the most creative and energy efficient solar house.
“During our project to build the most energy efficient solar house, we learned that a very basic energy problem exists in most households,” said Cole Hershkowitz, one of the founders of Chai. “The majority of consumers don’t know where energy and money is being wasted in their homes. But with insight into their usage and waste, they suddenly have much greater power to reduce them."
As much as 50% of the energy used in the home is wasted and results in overpaying $700 a year. Chai’s technology leverages utility smart meters, proprietary data analytics and an affordable gateway to deliver a seamless mobile experience. The team is working with Southern California Edison, Digi International hardware, and UC Irvine researchers as key partners in a one hundred home pilot with the goal of launching the product later this year. Chai estimates a total addressable market of 200 million homeowners throughout the US.
According to Hershkowitz, Chai uses science from a number of fields: signal processing and then algorithms borrowed from both energy management and finance get information from the data. And most importantly, “We make these insights as simple as possible so that average consumers can benefit."
“Our goal is to enable transformational technology that can influence the future of sustainability,” said Neil Fromer, Executive Director of the Resnick Sustainability Institute. “By potentially empowering people in as many as 200 million households, a big impact is possible.”
Chai won $40,000 in the contest, which is called First Look West (FLoW). FLoW is a consortium of California Institute of Technology led by the Resnick Institute, University of Southern California and the UC Los Angeles and represents the Western Region of the DOE’s National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition (NCEBPC).
About The Resnick Sustainability Institute
The Resnick Institute is Caltech’s studio focused on the breakthroughs that will change the balance of the world’s sustainability. It marries bold creativity and deep scientific knowledge by encouraging original thinking and orthogonal ideas. The Resnick Institute works with some of the world’s top and emerging scientists—at the California Institute of Technology and beyond. Current projects at the Resnick Institute include research into energy generation, such as advanced photovoltaics, photoelectrochemical solar fuels, cellulosic biofuels, and wind energy system design; energy conversion work on batteries and fuel cells; and energy efficiency and management such as fuel efficient vehicles, green chemical synthesis, thermoelectric materials, and advanced research on electrical grid control and distribution.