$10 million Empire Technology Prize launched for tall building low carbon heating system retrofits

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New York Construction Report staff writer

A new $10 million Empire Technology Prize has been launched to spur building technologies for low carbon heating system retrofits in tall commercial and multifamily buildings across New York State. The initiative, administered by The Clean Fight with support from Rocky Mountain Institute, includes a $3 million sponsorship from Wells Fargo.

“Investing in new clean, resilient technologies is just one way that New York is advancing progress toward our ambitious Climate Act goals, and the Empire Technology Prize is the newest tool as we move forward,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement. “This program will help us develop solutions that lower harmful emissions from buildings, creating healthier spaces for all New Yorkers to live and work, as we come together to fight climate change.”

This week’s announcement was made at an event in Manhattan focused on the transformative potential of technology to reduce energy and dependence on fossil fuels in existing tall buildings. Applicants are required to develop a tested and fully functional prototype of a heating or distribution system that can be installed in a manner that does not displace occupants and works with existing infrastructure in buildings seven stories or taller.

“NYSERDA is excited to partner with The Clean Fight and Wells Fargo to launch the Empire Technology Prize and usher in the next era of innovative low-carbon retrofit solutions for one of our hardest sectors to decarbonize – tall buildings,” said NYSERDA President and CEO Doreen M. Harris. “By casting a global net, we are seeking the world’s best and brightest to advance new technologies that minimize occupant disruptions and show how they could be applied in the buildings that make up the New York City skyline.”

Funding is expected to show how the public and private sector can work together to reduce the carbon footprint of New York State’s nearly 1.5 billion square feet of buildings.

Proposals will be reviewed and judged by industry experts, in conjunction with participating real estate companies partnering with The Clean Fight.

Applicants will be eligible to receive up to $1 million each; $250,000 on acceptance as a finalist, and up to $750,000 in milestone payments by progressing their solution. Also, $2 million will be available to help finalists offset the costs of installing solutions such as pilot programs or demonstration projects in eligible tall buildings in the New York market.

From July 2024 to June 2025, one winner will be awarded an additional $1 million grand prize, based on the solution with the greatest potential cumulative carbon emissions reduction by 2040 in the New York market, with a goal of facilitating the further development and deployment of the solution in New York’s tall buildings.

There are two focus areas for proposals:

  • Centralized building heat pumps that generate steam or high temperature hot water.
  • Solutions that make it easier to adopt readily available centralized low temperature heat pumps into existing building distribution systems.

Applications will be accepted until March 22, 2024.

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