Tag Archives: cleantech

California Clean Tech Open Finalists

22 Jul

California Clean Tech Open

The California Clean Tech Open, a business plan contest with considerable, hefty backers, this morning announced its list of finalists.  I found the list of technologies and business ideas so interesting I decided to share it here to help bring attention to these impressive entrepreneurial ventures:

Air, Water & Waste Category Finalists

  • Clean Coal Inc.: Removes contaminants from coal
  • Over the Moon Diapers: High performance reusable diapers and service network
  • Porifera: Carbon nanotube membrane for reverse osmosis desalination
  • PURE-T: Salt free water softener using nanobeads
  • Purite: Zero-energy chemical-free whole house water filtration
  • SequesCO: Microbial CO2 capture and conversion to biofuel
  • Waste Water Works (WWW): Microbial wastewater treatment also generates electricity

Energy Efficiency Category Finalists

  • Atomic Precision Systems Inc.: New semiconductor process for ultra-cheap LED lighting
  • Enovative Group: Smart pump for hot water circulation
  • NexChem: Energy-saving process improvement for zinc galvanizing
  • Transoptic: Solar energy assistance for conventional water heaters
  • Viridis Earth: Domestic HVAC retrofit to improve efficiency
  • WicKool: Energy efficient water recovery for existing rooftop air conditioning

Green Building Category Finalists

  • BottleStone: Ceramic stone countertops include 80% recycled glass
  • en-vis-age: Green, modular and customizable buildings
  • Green Design Systems: Straw wall building panels
  • GreenHomeAnswers.com: Home improvement website for green products and services
  • GroundSource: Residential geothermal system with installation services
  • ISTN: Eco-friendly building insulation
  • Parco Homes: Manufactured green (zero net energy) home kits
  • Solar Red: Low cost rooftop PV installation system and components
  • Team Wawa: Water-conserving shower system

Renewables Category Finalists

  • Covalent Solar: Organic thin film solar concentrators
  • Focal Point Energy: Solar thermal water heater for industrial processes
  • IEM Applications: Landfill methane accelerated recovery
  • Renewable Fuel Technologies: Agricultural waste biomass converted to Green Coal
  • Solar Ice: Solar powered ice maker
  • Solindis: Optical solar concentrator for thin film PV

Smart Power Category Finalists

  • 1ARC Energy: Higher capacity lithium-ion batteries
  • Cooler: Carbon calculator to allow B2B targeted advertising in LOHAS
  • Energy Empowered: Home display and control to reduce standby power usage
  • Enverity Corporation: Greenhouse gas tracking and compliance
  • Power Assure: Data center energy management software service
  • Renewable Voltage: Treat organic waste to provide hydrogen and energy storage
  • Tangerine Network Devices: Home energy display and control

Transportation Category Finalists

  • AAA Fleets: Turnkey electric vehicles and solar charging systems for fleets
  • E-Chargers: Plug-in hybrid charging station
  • ElectraDrive: Gas to electric drivetrain auto conversion
  • Electric Drive Research: Plug-in/gas hybrid 2 person, 3 wheel sports car
  • ElectronVault, Inc.: More efficient traction battery for hybrids
  • Enhanced Vehicle Acoustics: Flexible engine sound generator for quiet cars
  • FuelMotion: Series hybrid conversions for the developing world
  • Goose Networks: Hosted dynamic scheduler for carpools/vanpools
  • Philo Fuel: GPS-based audiovisual cues to help drivers optimize fuel efficiency

Based upon these short snippets alone, I think I will have my eyes on BottleStone, 1ARC Energy, and ElectronVault.  These all play on existing market demands (countertops, batteries, hybrid vehicles) and don’t require the kind of massive market shifts needed to make ideas like Energy Empowered or IEM Applications viable businesses.

Harnessing the Ocean’s Power for Electricity

9 Jun

Finavera Technology\'s AquaBouy, which is to be deployed off the coast of CaliforniaThis week’s Economist contains a couple of interesting articles in its Technology Quarterly outlining a variety of approaches to harnessing natural and renewable sources of energy for human consumption. Specifically, it focuses on technologies capturing power from the ocean.


The first looks at new technology for off-shore wind farms which would allow them to be located much further off the shoreline, generating more energy from higher-velocity winds and fewer complaints from nearby residents whose views have been blocked.

the stronger winds out at sea can generate more electricity, and hence more revenue: wind blowing at 10m/s can produce five times as much electricity as wind blowing half as fast, and this greatly favours building more offshore wind far

Instinctively, this seems like a winning combination: it moves electrical generation out of “my backyard,” where so few people are willing to have it, while also improving the economics of wind energy by tapping a more reliable, stronger source of wind.

The ability to get the electricity generated offshore back to where it is consumed, and the amount of energy lost in transmission would seem to be major barriers to the technology’s success. As would the cost of the turbines and maintenance, which would both seem considerably greater than a traditional land-based wind farm.


The second looks at the approaches to harnessing wave power which are showing the most promise.

YOU only have to look at waves pounding a beach, inexorably wearing cliffs into rubble and pounding stones into sand, to appreciate the power of the ocean.

Unlike wind and solar energy installations, wave energy sites could theoretically be located far from the coastline if an easy means of transporting the electricity were developed, once again eliminating the “not in my backyard” objections of most other forms of electrical generation.

Alas, harnessing it has proved to be unexpectedly difficult. In recent years wind farms have sprouted on plains and hilltops, and solar panels have been sprinkled across rooftops and deserts. But where the technology of wind and solar power is established and steadily improving, that of wave power is still in its infancy.

The article outlines a number of different designs and approaches to capturing wave energy, but none appear to be the obvious choice for the future. Each faces obstacles that have thus far kept them from widespread adoption.

A recurring problem, ironically enough, is that new devices underestimate the power of the sea, and are unable to withstand its assault. Installing wave-energy devices is also expensive; special vessels are needed to tow equipment out to sea, and it can be difficult to get hold of them… Another practical problem is the lack of infrastructure to connect wave-energy generators to the power grid. The cost of establishing this infrastructure makes small-scale wave-energy generation and testing unfeasible; but large-scale projects are hugely expensive.

The Role of Silicon Valley

Will the innovation of offshore wind and wave technologies happen in the same place so much technological innovation has occurred in the last twenty years? Interestingly, the article mentions that PG&E, the Bay Area electrical utility, is one of the first adopters of wave technology.

In December Pacific Gas & Electric, an American utility, signed an agreement to buy electricity from a wave farm that is to be built off the coast of California and is due to open in 2012

The PG&E project will involve deploying the Aquabouy, which is produced by Finavera Renewables of Vancouver.

Each Aquabuoy is a tube, 25-metres long, that floats vertically in the water and is tethered to the sea floor. Its up-and-down bobbing motion is used to pressurise water stored in the tube below the surface. Once the pressure reaches a certain level, the water is released, spinning a turbine and generating electricity.

Could this early adoption of wave technology, along with San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s well-known interest in alternative energy, mean that the Bay Area has an early lead in the development of this, the latest of alternative energy technologies?

Trading “Green” – The Global Carbon Index

13 Dec

BarcapI ran across an interesting press release from Barclays Capital today about their recent launch of the Barclays Capital Global Carbon Index (BGCI). It was also covered in various News Outlets:

This is the first time that such an index has been made available to asset managers, private banks and institutional investors, according to Barcap.

The Barclays Capital global carbon index (BGCI), intended as a benchmark for the rapidly growing carbon emissions markets, is made up of two sub-indices that track the performance of EUA credits in the EU emissions trading scheme (EU ETS) and Certified Emission Reduction (CER) credits generated by the clean development mechanism (CDM) [part of the Kyoto Treaty].

While my understanding of the financial markets is limited, this is an interesting innovation in that it will allow investors to buy into the growing market for “greenness” – the offsets and certified environmental upgrades of businesses.

It would seem that, certainly over the long term at least, truly environmentally-friendly business opportunities and technological advancements will continue to become scarcer and more difficult to achieve. For polluters needing to trade their carbon emissions with more “green” counterparts under increasingly popular carbon trading schemes (the US is set to follow in the EU’s footsteps here), selling “black” and buying “green” will only become more expensive with time.

A commodity with growing demand and increasing scarcity? Sounds like a good investment to me.