News & Announcements

CSU Students Win Clean Energy Challenge with Unique Wind Turbine Design

Amplified Wind Solutions Wins $10,000, Moves on to Midwest Competition in Chicago

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Feb. 13, 2013 – A wind turbine system that produces up to six times more electricity than traditional turbines emerged as the most promising technology from the 2013 Ohio Clean Energy Challenge. The cutting-edge system was developed by Amplified Wind Solutions of Cleveland State University, which won $10,000 in the annual business plan competition in Columbus on Jan. 29.

The team led by CEO Niki Zmij, an MBA candidate at CSU's Monte Ahuja College of Business, has developed a wind amplification system unlike anything that currently exists in the market. The system directs a higher concentration of air molecules into turbines, increasing the velocity and density of the wind stream.

"Through its unique capabilities, our Wind Amplification System directly addresses some of the biggest issues with wind technology today," Zmij says. "It is low cost, it uses less space, and because it can operate in low wind speeds, it can make wind power economically viable in previously non-viable locations."

The system was developed by Dr. Majid Rashidi, chair of the Engineering Technology Department at Cleveland State. He co-founded Amplified Wind Solutions (AWS) with Zmij; Terry Thiele, director of sustainable product strategies at Lubrizol; and Jon Stehura, finance manager at Laird Technologies.

"To meet the energy challenge we face today, and to compete, augment and substantially substitute the fossil-fuels that have been our primary energy source for nearly two centuries," Dr. Rashidi says, "every aspect of clean and renewable energy must be explored and researched, with the goal of developing safe and economically viable new energy producing technologies."

An earlier prototype of the AWS system was mounted on the roof of Progressive Field in downtown Cleveland. While the new turbines could be installed on various structures, Zmij envisions them on top of cell phone towers in remote and urban locations. The system could replace diesel generators, which are commonly used for back-up power in on-grid locations, and primary power for off-grid locations.

"We're initially targeting the telecommunications industry because it has a need for alternative power solutions," Zmij says. "Cell towers significantly contribute to operating costs and CO2 emissions, and power supply is a key issue for network expansion and in the event of power outages."

The potential market for the AWS technology is enormous. More than 3.7 million cell towers are scattered across the world and the number is rising. The combination of an affordable, efficient technology with a large market opportunity impressed the judging panel of industry experts and investment professionals at the Ohio Clean Energy Challenge.

The event, hosted by the University Clean Energy Alliance of Ohio (UCEAO) and NorTech, is part of the U.S. Department of Energy's National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition, designed to create a network of student-focused clean energy business competitions. It featured 12 student teams from universities across the state that developed technologies in a variety of areas, including wind, solar, biomass and waste to energy, and home energy management.

As winner of the Ohio challenge, AWS received $10,000 and a spot in the Midwest regional competition to be hosted by the Clean Energy Trust in Chicago on April 4. The winner of that event will receive a $100,000 grand prize and a place in the DOE's national competition in Washington, D.C. this summer. The 2012 winner, Northwestern University's NuMat Technologies, captured the top prize at the national competition and at other events, and has been awarded more than $1.25 million in prizes.

In addition to AWS, two teams from Case Western Reserve University received wild card berths for the Midwest competition. EcoSpinners designed a programmable electric bike with a low-cost fuel cell that runs on non-polluting and recyclable liquid fuel; NanoHarv Technologies developed a micro algae harvesting/dewatering technology that is capable of turning algae blooms into biofuel feedstock.

"The Ohio Clean Energy Challenge showed we have exceptional entrepreneurial talent in our state," NorTech President and CEO Rebecca O. Bagley says. "These bright students can succeed because Ohio offers an innovative support system of universities, established businesses and economic development organizations that nurtures their big ideas."

About UCEAO:

UCEAO is a statewide organization serving the needs of its members by supporting clean energy research, strengthening education, promoting a strong and vibrant business community, and enhancing Ohio's advanced energy economy.

About NorTech:

NorTech is a technology-based economic development organization working towards the revitalization of Northeast Ohio by accelerating the growth of regional innovation clusters in targeted emerging industries. NorTech works as an intermediary to connect small, large and mid-size companies and universities for business, funding and research opportunities that result in job creation and capital attraction. NorTech is currently focused on three industries: advanced energy, flexible electronics and water technologies. Visit us at

For more information, contact Christian Taske, director of communications for Nortech, at 216.640.8824 or