In November, OpenIDEO challenged the world to come up with new ways to achieve a renewable energy-powered future. Innovators submitted proposals of their designs and projects and got feedback from the community. The best entries were singled out for their potential effectiveness.

OpenIDEO’s Renewable Energy Challenge* — sponsored by the 11th Hour Project, which was founded by Grist board member Wendy Schmidt and also funds Grist — recently announced the top ideas from the challenge. Some are still in the planning stages, while others are further along, but all are absolutely applause-worthy. Here are the eight finalists:

1.  Avava Systems: This organization wants to turn vacant lots in San Francisco into spots for sustainable and affordable housing. They’re currently working toward a goal to deliver 10 units by Aug. 1 of this year.



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2. Energy Lend: This team wants to connect NGOs, energy providers, and individuals to lenders around the world, in order to get renewable energy to more people.

3.  The Giving Tree: This idea, submitted by an MBA student at Chicago Booth, makes wind generators out of beautiful sculptures of trees. The trees would conduct enough energy for 2.4 families, 15 streetlights, and cellphone charging. One tree costs $30,000, so growing this organization will take some financial cultivation. Not as easy as planting a real tree, but hey, still pretty neat.

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Giving Tree

4. RE-volv (Solar Seed Fund): This organization uses a revolving fund to deliver solar energy to nonprofit organizations and worker-owned cooperatives. They’ve already crowdfunded three projects, and are looking to launch more.


Solar Seed Fund

5. Be Energy Build the Future wants to turn the energy produced by physical exercise into electricity. Yeah. This one’s a mind-bender, and its development is still in the beginning stages. Imagine, if these folks get the gadget up and running, you could charge your phone just by breaking a sweat.

6. Poo-Powered Pasteurization: Snicker-inducing, yes, but cattle manure biodigesters could provide renewable, on-site pasteurization for small farmers — and save milk from spoiling in the process. The concept is currently undergoing research with farmers in the U.S., Costa Rica, and China.


Poo-Powered Pasteurization

7. SunSaluter: This is a way to retrofit existing solar panels with rotating technology that uses gravity to boost efficiency. Over 100 SunSaluters have already been installed worldwide.



8. 5 Houses Up, 5 Houses Down: This project brings together people who already use solar to power their homes, and trains them to advocate for renewable energy in their communities.


5 Houses Up 5 Houses Down

*Grist Founder & CEO Chip Giller is on the advisory panel for the Renewable Energy Challenge.