General Electric (GE) has already chosen a dozen new partners to accelerate and commercialize technologies to help build the next generation power grid, as part of Phase I of its ecomagination challenge. Idaho's Solar Roadways project received the highest number of community votes in that round, and looks to be doing well in the current phase. As the hopefuls in the "Powering Your Home" phase go before the judges, we take a quick look at some of the entries that have caught our attention.

The ecomagination challenge is GE's US$200 million innovation experiment which invites businesses, entrepreneurs, innovators, students – well, anyone over 18 years of age, in fact – to share their ideas for future clean energy technologies. If submissions impress the judges, they may end up being funded by GE and its venture capital partners. Now in Phase II, the challenge is concentrating on innovations for capturing, managing, and using energy in the home. Judges are currently weighing up the most promising of the 700+ entries, looking to award five of them US$100,000 in prize money.

As I write, Solar Roadways has received the most support from the community, for a home application of its road panel power generation and distribution system. The main thrust of the project is to replace asphalt and concrete road surfaces with solar panels that are tough enough to be driven upon, but there are many more areas that can be turned into sun-soaking power generators.

"Driveways, sidewalks, patios, walkways, pool decks, etc., can all be covered with the smaller version of the Solar Road Panels," says the project's Scott Brusaw. "If enough surface area is available (and exposed to the sun), a home can go completely off-grid. If not, it can certainly put a dent in its energy bill!"

Something in the air

Another proposal that's attracted a fair number of community votes is the 1.8kW SmartWind RidgeBlaster turbine. Instead of building domestic wind turbine towers in a back yard, the RidgeBlaster turbines are placed along the ridge of the roof, are said to be made from silver-metalized EPP, and designed to catch the wind from all directions with turbulence-resistance built in.

Xompu takes the managed desktop environment common in businesses and offers the consumer a similar experience. A PC, software and remote maintenance are all brought together into one service solution. Customers get low-power computers with cloud technology integration, and are offered the opportunity to neutralize CO2 emissions.

Cleanliness is next to...

By adding a special additive derived from plant material to the waste from a composting toilet, San Diego's Joseph Kennedy says that hydrogen gas can be released into fuel cell technology to produce energy and water.

Robotic vacuum cleaners like those from iRobot are always welcome at Gizmag Towers, but is there enough surface area on such a device so that it's able to get the power it needs from the sun? Kenya's General Propulsion Technologies seems to think so, as its Solar Powered Home Vacuum & Cleaning Robot will also sport light sensors, so that when not in action it heads towards the light for a top-up.

Sadly, that's all we have space for this time. The clean energy muse certainly seems to have been very busy inspiring the hundreds of entrants in Phase II of GE's ecomagination challenge. Which ideas, if any, would you invest in? Let us know your thoughts via the comments ...