Some of you may have noticed that my recent social media posts have originated from Abu Dhabi in the UAE. I am here for the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, the largest gathering on sustainability in the Middle East.

This week is jam packed with numerous interesting tours, panels, press conferences and activities of which I will share more about in future posts. Tonight, however, I was in attendance at a very special presentation celebrating innovations in technology from all over the world, held at the glamorous Emirates Palace Hotel

The Zayed Future Energy Prize embodies the vision of the late founding father of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan who laid the foundation for renewable energy and sustainability as part of his legacy in pioneering sustainable development in the UAE. An annual award, the Prize is managed by Masdar, on behalf of the Abu Dhabi government and seeks to award achievements and innovation in the fields of renewable energy and sustainability, as well as to educate and inspire future generations.

The winners this evening are as follows. Below each description is a video about their project.

ABB, a 120-year old Swiss multinational power and automation company, won recognition in the Large Corporation category for its legacy of commitment to the advancement renewable energy and energy efficient technologies.

In the SME category, Abellon Clean Energy was awarded US$1.5 million for its advancements in biomass pellets – made from agricultural and saw mill residues – that are helping meet global energy and heat demands. The company is also instrumental in driving economic growth in the Indian state of Gujarat by supporting rural farmers dramatically improve their crop yields.

In the NGO category, the German-based non-profit Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems was awarded US $1.5 million for its groundbreaking work in photovoltaics (PV), solar thermal, renewable energy generation and energy efficiency. Fraunhofer is the largest solar energy research institute in Europe, and one of the largest in the world. Fraunhofer is credited with developing high-efficiency ‘concentrating’ PV systems and solar thermal electrical generation (STEG) prototypes.

Wang Chuanfu, founder and chairman of BYD Co Ltd, the Chinese auto and battery maker, received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award, winning US$500,000. Wang founded BYD when he was 29, steering the company’s growth into one of the world’s largest manufacturers of rechargeable batteries, The company is the market leader in electric buses and its grid-scale energy storage systems account for 23 percent of globally commissioned installed capacity.

I found myself most excited for the future of innovative energy technology after hearing about all of the finalists from each world region as submitted by various high schools across the globe. I'm sure you will agree that the winners are ready to change the world.

The Americas: New York-based Bronx Design & Construction Academy was selected for its Energy Environment Research Center – an initiative to generate on-site renewable energy from wind and solar power.

Europe: Gheorghe Rosca Codreanu National College in Romania was selected for its proposal to reduce the school’s electricity demand 100 by percent using LED lighting and solar panels, as well as conduct sustainability seminars for the local community.

Africa: In Malawi, the Nkhata Bay School Authority, was rewarded for its proposal to create a Solar Demonstration and Training Center – a program that will promote the use of solar power in one of the least electrified countries in Southern Africa.

Asia: Kalkeri Sangeet Vidyalaya – based in the southern Indian state of Karnataka – was selected for its student-led project to incorporate energy efficiency, solar technology and bio-gas, as well as other energy programs, to electrify the homes of deserving, underprivileged students.

Oceania: The Tonga High School was selected for its project to install solar panels and energy-efficiency measures that will power up to 100 percent of the school’s electricity requirements.

Feel free to follow The Zayed Future Energy Prize on Facebook and Twitter.

Disclosure statement: Joanne's trip has been subsidized by Masdar Corporation in Abu Dhabi.

Photo: Joanne Manaster