With hackathons proving their worth as a way to nurture creativity and spur innovation, CSIRO is getting in on the action, inviting potential clean energy innovators to #hackthesun for $10k in prize money. This will be Australia’s first solar hackathon, with the same model internationally already having produced a number of successful solar startups.
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The hackathon will present teams with a challenge centring around renewable energy, as part of their goal to continue the conversation around solar and sustainable energy at this crucial time. To run the event, CSIRO has partnered with Silicon Valley-based Powerhouse (formerly SfunCube), a solar-centric incubator responsible for hosting similar hackathons over in the US.
These international events have thrown up a number of surprising success stories in the field of sustainable energy. These include Powerhive, a tech startup dedicated to connecting people in rural areas to reliable microgrid electricity, and UtilityAPI, an enterprise software company focusing on data collection for the ‘new energy economy’. Seeking a similar breadth in scope, the CSIRO event aims to be as flexible as possible, open to solutions involving software or mechanical applications of all types — though potential entrants are encouraged to assemble teams with a broad range of skills.
Three challenges have already been announced on the hackathon’s Devpost, each addressing a different facet of the unique problems that may be faced in the solar industry:
1. Develop a creative advertising campaign that addresses the benefits of going solar. These benefits can be environmental, financial, and societal.
2. The way people use energy is being influenced by air-conditioning, solar systems, electric vehicles and batteries. To avoid electricity system upgrades and overloading, we need to create a low cost solution to accurately predict energy use and to manage demand, without inconveniencing the customer. What information (e.g. energy, weather, demographic) is needed to predict energy use and how can social media and consumer engagement be used to achieve this?
3. Homeowners want to install solar systems but can often find it difficult because of technical limitations with their local electricity network. There is currently insufficient electrical data to work with – who is connected where, how do they use energy and how much solar could be added, so how do we identify these limitations? Can you create an accurate low-cost solution and what is your consumer engagement strategy?
The event will begin with a social networking event on the Friday evening, with the actual hackathon — and presentation of awards — to follow on the Saturday. With a total prize pool of $10k, the first prize winner will take home $4k, second place $3k, third place $2k, with an additional $1k for the People’s Choice Award.
The CSIRO Solar Hackathon will run on April 9 at the CSIRO Energy Centre in Newcastle, and is open to teams of three to five people. Teams can be registered now on CSIRO’s website.