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AIC Grad Wins Shark Tank Contest with Underwater Turbine Idea

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) graduate Rebecca Gray, class of 2017, won first place and a $500 cash prize at Springfield Technical Community College’s (STCC) recent Shark Tank competition. Gray delivered one of seven two-minute pitches to a panel of four judges from the local business community.

Gray’s idea for her company, Coastline Industries, focuses on efficient, eco-friendly, and renewable energy in the form of underwater turbines. “Solar energy loses 7% of its efficiency in the first year and, if not maintained, can lose up to 40% efficiency in that first year,” she noted. “Wind turbines add to an increase in noise and stress level of birds and interrupt their migration patterns, all contributing to a high environmental impact.”

Gray’s proposed underwater turbines would be built 500 yards from the shoreline in New Hampshire and 100 yards below sea level, producing low environmental impact with little disruption to marine life.

“The judges provided five minutes of feedback and very intense questioning about the contestants’ business proposals,” Gray said.

While Gray’s idea is not a new one — Scotland already uses underwater turbines and is on track to build the world’s largest field this fall with 270 turbines — it is a new concept for the U.S., Gray said. “The United States is far behind in introducing renewable energy due to bureaucracy and other considerations. Eight turbines could power 5,200 homes, and 39% of the nation’s homes are within a thousand-mile reach of a shoreline.”

As part of the competition, presenters had to develop a business model, including startup costs. “While the initial project for Coastline Industries will cost approximately $23.6 million to complete, this venture is eligible for $7 million in federal grants and up to $15 million in low-interest federal loans,” Gray said. “The venture seeks $1.6 million in private funding. The starting energy mill of eight turbines, powering 5,200 homes, would bring in $5.72 million in revenue the first year alone. The entire investment will be made back within five years.”

Gray’s idea resonated with the panel, and she was granted the top prize of $500. “They said I did a really good job of answering questions on the spot, had confidence in my answers, and knew what I was talking about.”

The newly minted AIC graduate, with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, is a New Hampshire native who now resides in Springfield. She will begin a full-time job in finance this July with plans to enter a master’s program in the fall.

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