FORT COLLINS — Innosphere is collaborating with Fort Collins on implementing the program goals of the city’s Climate Action Plan, according to officials of the city and the locally based technology incubator.
Under the agreement, Innosphere will help the city find the new innovation to meet the plan’s goals concerning water, buildings, mobility solutions, energy and waste reduction.
Innosphere also will organize a competition currently being called “Innovate Fort Collins.” The competition will open July 21, and its finalists will present Sept. 28-29 at Colorado State University’s 21st Century Energy Transition Symposium. The winner will be able to test and demonstrate the technology solution within the Fort Collins grid.
“We want to build on the successful model of these competitions, but the twist to this one is that being successful means you get to deploy your innovation in a real-world situation — which is worth way more than cash,” said Innosphere chief executive Mike Freeman. “The winner will be able to collect real data on how the product is performing, get insight into a real-world customer on how they’re using the technology, and create a “reference account’ and be able to say, ‘This is a significant, known entity that deployed our product successfully.’
“That’s why the technology has to be in a stage where it’s ready to be deployed,” Freeman said. “We’ll give preference to younger companies just bringing innovative ideas to the competition, but we’re looking for the best innovation whether it comes from a startup or an established company.”
“We are excited about this opportunity to work with the city of Fort Collins and the Rocky Mountain Innosphere on this challenge,” said Maury Dobbie, assistant director of CSU’s Center for the New Energy Economy and symposium chair. “Our sixth annual symposium is all about finding solutions related to the energy transition of our country, and one of the ways we’re doing that is through collaboration with industry and government.”
The collaboration between Innosphere, CSU and the city was “kind of an amazing alignment that happened,” said Jacqueline Kozak Thiel, chief sustainability officer for the city of Fort Collins, who unveiled it Thursday night during an Innovation After Hours event at Innosphere. “When we developed our Climate Action Plan in March 2015, it set some of the most ambitious goals in the world, but we needed to figure out how we were going to move the needle toward those goals. We live in an incredibly innovative community, so it’s important for us to leverage that talent and create economic opportunity.
“So the stars aligned with CSU hosting that 21st Century Energy Transition Symposium,” she said. “This used to be called the natural gas symposium, it reflects the transition in energy for the 21st century. CSU wanted to include some sort of competition, and that was perfect because we’d been talking about that with Innosphere. We had an ‘a-ha!’ moment.”
According to the vision behind the competition, the problem to be addressed will change every time the contest is held. The first competition will focus on expanding charging options for electric vehicles.
“We’re offering the city and our infrastructure as a platform to test these solutions,” Thiel said. “A lot of this information we don’t know. For instance, we have some of the biggest proportion of electric-vehicle use in the country. But on a hot August day when people are cranking up their air conditioning, they also have to come home and charge their electric vehicles —.so how can we handle that without overloading the system? The reality is that charging patterns are much more diverse, so how do we utilize that information and adjust the way we plan?”
City officials have modeled electric vehicle use with the assumption that charging is occurring mostly at home at 5 p.m., but mounting evidence shows that actual charging patterns are much more varied.
“We have a lot of $10 problems we need to solve, but we realize the government can’t fund it alone and come up with all the ideas,” Thiel said. “However, the city can throw $1 into that solution and then leverage partnerships to meet it.”
The collaboration with Innosphere and CSU “is not costing the city anything other than staff involvement to try to identify the problems we’re trying to solve,” Thiel said.
Cost has been one of the points of contention since the city came up with the Climate Action Plan. Its goals include reducing carbon emissions 20 percent below 2005 levels in 2020 and 80 percent by 2030 with a desire to be carbon neutral by 2050. To reach the 2020 goals, about 50 percent of the reduced carbon emissions outlined in the Climate Action Plan would need to come from electric sources.
For Innosphere, Freeman said, the collaboration with Fort Collins “really builds on the partnership we already have in the areas we know best — finding technology and innovation and matching them up with what Fort Collins will need to implement the plan.”
To sign up for the competition starting July 21, go to www.innovatefortcollins.com. More information about the city of Fort Collins’ Climate Action Plan is online at www.fcgov.com/climateaction. Registration is open for the CSU symposium at http://naturalgas.colostate.edu/symposium-2016/.