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By Mark Golden
Forbes’ new “30 Under 30” lists feature five Stanford University alumni and two current students developing energy-related technologies.
The magazine applauds auspicious achievements in 20 categories, from manufacturing to games. From Stanford, “30 Under 30 in Energy” for 2020 features the two co-founders of SHYFT Power Solutions, as well as Kevin Bush, a co-founder of Swift Solar. In addition, Forbes selected the four co-founders of WindBorne Systems for its “30 Under 30 in Science.”
SHYFT co-founders Ugwem Eneyo and Cole Stites-Clayton
SHYFT Power Solutions (formerly Solstice Energy Solutions) is developing a hardware and software combination that provides custom design of residential grid-assisted energy systems and energy management technology to deliver reliable and affordable energy to Nigerian households. The startup was founded by Nigerian native Ugwem Eneyo, MS ’16, PhD candidate, and Cole Stites-Clayton, ’14, MS ’15.
An energy infrastructure crisis has left more than 3 million urban Nigerian households to rely on private generators for up to 19 hours a day. The use of these generators leads to high home energy costs, public health problems and 15 percent of the nation’s total CO2 emissions. Nigeria’s nascent solar market has yet to provide a widely suitable product to the residential sector. SHYFT delivers custom battery-backed solar systems and energy management software to deliver the lowest possible capital and operating costs. Eneyo and Stites-Clayton received an Innovation Transfer Program grant from Stanford’s TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy in 2016 to begin their journey toward commercialization. SHYFT has raised more than $1 million in financing so far.
Kevin Bush, co-founder of Swift Solar
Bush, PhD ’19, is a co-founder of Swift Solar, which has raised more than $7 million to develop next generation perovskite-based solar cells. Hybrid solar cells using perovskites promise 20 percent to 50 percent greater efficiency than current photovoltaic systems. It is the fastest-advancing solar technology. Under former Stanford professor Michael McGehee, Bush led the development of perovskite-on-silicon tandem solar cells, setting new efficiency records and advancing material stability for commercial production. McGehee is an advisor to Swift Solar.
In the science category, Forbes recognized the WindBorne Systems team: Paige Brown, ’20; Andrey Shushko, ’16; Kai Marshland, ’19, master’s degree candidate; and John Dean, ’19. They are improving a neglected technology: weather balloons. Current balloons collect snapshots of the atmosphere over where they are launched, but they fly typically for only two hours. Over land data is sparse, and over ocean – where most truly significant weather forms – is missing entirely. WindBorne is developing balloons which fly 60 times longer than usual and fill gaps underserved by existing technology. They aim to help humanity adapt to the growing threat of climate change, for example by better predicting where hurricanes will make landfall, or directing firefighters to where wildfires are burning hottest.
The WindBorne team, from left: Andrey Sushko, Kai Marshland, Paige Brown and John Dean
All four WindBorne entrepreneurs had previous experience working at SpaceX, in addition to individual experience at Lockheed Martin, NASA, LeoLabs and Lyft. Much like SHYFT’s partners, WindBorne’s team started translating Stanford-developed technology from the laboratory into a business with the support of the TomKat Center’s Innovation Transfer Program last spring.
Stanford students, alumni and faculty in energy have been featured in Forbes’ “30 Under 30” in each of its nine years. Winners are chosen in a competitive process. This year's judges for the energy category were energy consultant Carol Battershall; former chief executive of BP, Lord John Browne; co-founder of Fervo Energy and Stanford alumnus, Tim Latimer; and chief executive of Greentown Labs, Emily Reichert. Judges for the science category were chief executive of The Engine, Katie Rae; director of the University of Georgia's Atmospheric Sciences Program, Marshall Shephered; co-founder of Trace Genomics, Diane Wu; and director of the National Air & Space Museum, Ellen Stofan.
Among all the categories, nearly 50 people selected in 2020 studied at Stanford, the most of any university, according to Forbes. Read the full "30 Under 30" report here.