GE Raining Cash On Green Startups

GE announced a number of winners in its $200 million Ecomagination challenge today, including five innovation award recipients. The winners, which were selected by an independent panel of judges, will each receive $100,000 from GE for ideas that create "a smarter, cleaner, more efficient electric grid and represent the entrepreneurial spirit of the Challenge."

Competition for the innovation award was fierce; nearly 4,000 ideas were proposed before the judges whittled them down to five. The winners include IceCode, a technology that removes ice from wind turbine blades by applying high-power pulses of heat from the inside out; WinFlex, a company that produces rotors for wind turbines made out of light, cheap and flexible cloth sheets; and Capstone Metering, a company that offers real-time water system management. 

These aren't the only companies to get attention from GE today. The corporation and its venture capital partners (Foundation Capital and RockPort Capital Partners) also announced a collective investment of $55 million in 12 power grid technology companies, including SustainX (compressed air energy storage technology), Sentient Energy (advanced grid monitoring solutions), Soladigm (window technology that automatically switches from clear glass to tinted), and ClimateWell (energy efficiency cooling and heating systems). Clarian Power also received one of five $10,000 Consumer Innovation Awards awards for ideas in the consumer energy space.

Why invest in so many startups? "The ecomagination Challenge has delivered on our commitment with partners to drive innovation and investment through collaborative action," said GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt in a statement. "We are working with these new partners to accelerate the development and deployment of these concepts on a scale that will help drive a cleaner, more efficient and economically viable grid. The partnerships formed through this Challenge represent a new way of doing business at GE as we continue to expand our broad digital energy offering in the growing power grid market." Translation: GE expects to make some cash.

That's good for GE, and it's good for us; the company is one of the largest and most important investors in clean energy technology.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.