Medina native’s company wins $1 million in state’s clean energy contest

Staff Reports Posted 25 September 2019 at 12:15 pm

Provided photo: Medina native Colin Huwyler stands by a truck that uses his technology to burn used vegetable oil and restaurant grease.

BINGHAMTON – A Medina native’s company, which turns used vegetable oil and restaurant grease into fuel for trucks, is the $1 million winner of a renewable energy contest.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that Optimus Technologies, based in Pittsburgh, PA, won the grand prize in the annual 76West Clean Energy Competition, one of the largest contests in the country that supports growing clean energy businesses to foster economic development.

Optimus Technologies was created by Colin Huwyler, a 2002 Medina graduate. The company designs and manufactures biodiesel fuel systems for medium and heavy-duty diesel trucks to operate on up to 100 percent biodiesel, thereby reducing fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80 percent.

Huwyler, 34, a son of Bobbi Huwyler of Medina and Monte Huwyler, is founder of Optimus Technologies in Pittsburgh, the market leader in development of biodiesel conversion systems for medium and heavy duty trucks. Huwyler has four patents on his technology, with several more pending. (Click here to see a previous Orleans Hub article on Huwyler.)

A total of $2.5 million was competitively awarded to six innovative companies at today’s awards ceremony at Binghamton University where Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul announced the winners. Besides the $1 million for Optimus Technologies, the state recognized a $500,000 winner and four $250,000 winners. The competition is administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

In this year’s 76West competition, NYSERDA received 169 applications representing 14 countries and 21 states. Of these, 18 semifinalists were chosen and participated in a two-day pitch session this summer at Binghamton University. Judges then recommended the top six winners.

As a condition of the award, companies must either move to the Southern Tier or establish a direct connection with the Southern Tier economy, such as a supply chain partnership, job development with Southern Tier companies or other strategic relationships with Southern Tier entities that help spur economic development and create jobs. For companies already located in the Southern Tier, they must commit to substantially growing their business and employment in the region.

The 2019 76West winners are:

• $1 million grand prize – Optimus Technologies from Pittsburgh, PA: Designs and manufactures biodiesel fuel systems for medium and heavy-duty diesel trucks to operate on up to 100 percent biodiesel, thereby reducing fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80 percent.

• $500,000 award – Radical Plastics of Marblehead, MA: Develops a biodegradable replacement for agricultural plastic mulch, lowering greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality by reducing fertilizer and avoiding plastic incineration.

• $250,000 award (4) –

Cambridge Crops of Somerville, MA: Produces an edible bio-based protein coating that reduces food spoilage and waste as well as associated carbon dioxide emissions from food production and transport.

Carbon Upcycling Technologies of Calgary, Canada: Transforms carbon dioxide emissions into nanoparticles that can be used to produce coatings and additives to extend the life of concrete, thereby helping to avoid greenhouse gas emissions associated with concrete manufacturing.

CleanFiber of Buffalo, NY: Manufactures low-dust high-performance cellulose building insulation from recycled carboard that increases energy efficiency and reduces energy costs.

ProsumerGrid of Atlanta, GA: Produces integrated planning software enabling electric utilities and energy service companies to optimize deployment of distributed energy resources such as solar and energy storage.

76West began in 2016 as a four-year $20 million competition and support program. Empire State Development has committed $20 million to extend the competition through 2023 as part of the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, offering $10 million in awards and $10 million in business support.

Applicants will again compete for $2.5 million in total prizes each year, with a $1 million grand prize and other awards. NYSERDA will continue to administer 76West, working closely with the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) and local partners in the region.

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