XPRIZE officially launched the $100 Million XPRIZE Carbon Removal competition. In honor of the launch, XPRIZE founder Peter H. Diamandis sat down with Elon Musk, who is funding the competition through the Musk Foundation.
In February, the Tesla CEO announced he was teaming up with XPRIZE to manage the $100 million carbon capture prize he was donating to encourage innovators to develop CO2 removal solutions. Elon Musk’s recent interview with XPRIZE’s Diamandis marked the opening of registrations for the competition.
Musk advised competitors to go for pragmatic solutions. “It doesn’t need to be perfect. You know, it’s got to be something that [it] just…fundamentally if we scale it up, would it work. And that’s it.”
Musk and Diamandis talked about some competition guidelines and pointed out three key factors that judges will consider when deciding which teams win the prize. To be considered for the award, teams must present a solution that could capture a minimum of 1,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. Diamandis made it clear that XPRIZE judges will be looking at a team’s ability to actually capture carbon and not just their theoretical solution.
Musk admitted that making ideas tangible can be challenging. “Ideas are plentiful, actually getting it done is very hard,” Musk said. “You could say, for example, the idea of going to the moon is easy. Going to the moon is hard.”
Besides showcasing a working and viable carbon removal solution or product, teams must be able to calculate the fully considered costs of their ideas. Musk explained that teams should consider aspects of their solution. For example, they should consider factors like environmental impact or if the solution could be turned into a useful product that could generate revenue. However, one important factor teams must know is that their solutions or productions must capture CO2 with net negative emissions.
Teams will also need to prove that their solutions or products will contain the captured CO2 for at least 100 years. Their solution must also be scalable to a gigaton level.
The team that wins first place will get $50 million of the $100 million prize from the Musk Foundation. Teams in second, third, and fourth place will split $30 million of the prize. Musk said the winners could use the prizes to start a company.
After the first year of the 4-year competition, XPRIZE will be awarded up to 15 Milestone Prizes of $1 million each to competitors that made the most progress. Up to $5 million of the prize money will be dedicated to awards for student teams. Musk noted that he is willing to increase the prize if more teams deserve recognition.