SAN FRANCISCO, March 17, 2011 – Imagine H2O launched its global Water-Energy Nexus
Prize to attract and accelerate new water businesses with energy-saving innovations. “To our
surprise, the winners don’t just save energy, they also make use of the valuable energy stored in
water and wastewater,” says Scott Bryan, Director of Operations. The First Place winner,
Hydrovolts, uses floating hydro-kinetic turbines to convert the flow of a canal into a distributed
energy source. The two runners-up, Blackgold Biofuels and Fogbusters, are unlocking the energy
resources found in fat, oil and grease (FOG), which are some of the most energy-intensive wastestreams in the water grid. “Remarkably, these companies are turning cost-centers into profit centers and unlocking important energy potential to make our water infrastructure more efficient and robust,” says Kate Gasner, Imagine H2O’s Prize Manager.
Attracting more than fifty teams from around the world including the United States, Canada,
Australia, Sweden, the Netherlands, Singapore and Israel, Imagine H2O’s 2010 Water-Energy
Nexus Prize challenged entrepreneurs to create businesses that reduce the energy needed to move and treat water and wastewater. “The water-energy nexus is of tremendous technical and social importance because you can't generate energy without water and you can't supply clean water without energy,” says Steve Kloos, Advanced Technology Leader at GE Power & Water, and a judge for this year’s prize.
Created to help find sustainable, entrepreneurial solutions to global water problems, the Imagine
H2O Prize offers over $100,000 in cash, business and legal support, and access to a network of
partners, customers, and financiers to accelerate the process of bringing these ideas to market.
Imagine H2O is the leading ecosystem for water entrepreneurship and innovation.
One of Imagine H2O’s goals for its 2010 prize is to increase awareness of the connection
between water and energy, a relationship often underappreciated by the public. The EPA
estimates that retrofitting one out of every 100 homes with water-efficient technologies could
save 100 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year and prevent the release of 80,000 tons of
greenhouse gas to the atmosphere. In some parts of the country, you can save more energy byturning off the tap than by turning off the lights. For example, in California, as much as 19% of
the state’s energy use is dedicated to moving, treating, and heating water.
Seattle-based Hydrovolts, which took the top prize, provides power to irrigation districts, water
treatment facilities, canal operators and nearby consumers. Featuring a floating “flip-wing”
turbine that is portable and easily installed, Hydrovolts brings a new clean energy solution to
existing water infrastructure. “We're very optimistic about the global market opportunity,” says
Hydrovolts CEO Burt Hammer. “Canals are an untapped energy resource, and they are
essentially the same around the world so we expect to expand our impact rapidly. Participating
in the Imagine H2O contest helped us refine our business plan, recruit investors, and initiate new
partnerships. We’re thrilled about continuing to work with Imagine H2O’s ecosystem for water
RUNNERS UP: BLACKGOLD BIOFUELS & FOGBUSTERS
Runner-up Philadelphia-based Blackgold Biofuels is operating a pilot program at San
Francisco’s Wastewater Treatment facility, turning fat, oil and grease (FOG) into biodiesel.
According to, CEO & Co-founder Emily Bockian Landsburg, BlackGold’s technology “results
not only in a reduction in the amount of energy required to treat the FOG, but in an
environmentally friendly fuel that can be used onsite or be sold for a profit.”
Runner-up Fogbusters’ patented technology works in conjunction with existing treatment
systems to recover FOG from wastewater without the use of chemicals. Currently used at major
food processing plants, Oakland, CA-based FogBusters is also gaining traction with potential
users in the oil and gas sector. According to CEO Bradley Mart, the FogBusters technology is
“the first big breakthrough in oil/water separation in 25 years.”
Imagine H2O’s judging panel, which features many of the water sector’s leading experts,
selected the top ten finalists, rewarding them entry to Imagine H2O’s Accelerator Program where
they are provided industry expert mentors and professional services. The judges evaluated all
business plan entries based on commercial viability. “Only a small number of water start-ups
receive funding each year because while there are many existing technologies that hold
promising solutions, few can offer the business model to effectively enter the market,” says
Tamin Pechet, Co-founder and Chairman of Imagine H2O. “We’re looking for great ideas with
great business models to enter our Accelerator Program.”
The three winners were honored at Imagine H2O Water Innovator’s Showcase in San Francisco.
Hundreds of clean-tech leaders, including water entrepreneurs, investors, water utility
executives, government officials and industry experts, gathered to discuss where and how
innovation is taking root in the water sector. The event included a special address from Timothy
Brick, the former Chairman of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
Since launching the inaugural prize last year, Imagine H2O has seen an overall improvement in
the technical sophistication and entrepreneurial backgrounds of submissions in this year’s
competition. “Several were based on National Science Foundation-funded research and
developed from PhD engineering programs,” Bryan says.
“Imagine H2O leverages entrepreneurship to tackle water challenges and inspires people with
ideas to launch new businesses,” explained John Taft, CEO of RBC U.S. Wealth Management,
who represented Founding Sponsor RBC at the event. “We are especially pleased to see the
quality of this year’s finalists and their commitment to turning water challenges into
“Imagine H2O has successfully developed a model to catalyze water entrepreneurship and to
help bring promising businesses to the marketplace,” says Debra Coy of Svanda & Coy
Consulting, and a returning judge to this year's competition. Last year’s inaugural Imagine H2O
prize focused on end-use water efficiency in agriculture, commercial, industrial or residential
applications. Fruition Sciences received first place for their innovative way to give the vineyard
farmer real-time status of key variables necessary for growing wine grapes. Several 2009
Finalists have increased their customer base and attracted investments from angel and venture
capital investors. This year, Imagine H2O expects even greater outcomes for its Water-Energy
Nexus Prize winners and finalists as a result of its expanded Accelerator Program.
Imagine H2O is joined by its founding sponsor RBC, and sponsors Cooley LLP, PwC, Full
Circle Fund, Early Growth Financial Services and a number of private foundations focused on
sustainability and entrepreneurship.