The Guardian and the Cleantech Group have chosen 100 cleantech companies from around the world as most likely to make a major market impact over the next 5-10 years. The companies must be cleantech-oriented, for-profit, and not listed on stock exchanges. 33 of the companies are in California which indeed shows that California leads the planet in cleantech. If just one of the technologies being researched by these companies goes mainstream, it could be an economic and environmental game-changer.
Imagine if biofuel was made in commercial amounts from algae in the Imperial Valley using technology developed by San Diego startups, or if next-gen geothermal drilling techniques turned all of the US into a potential geothermal area, producing clean, renewable energy for all. Well, there are dozens of firms in San Diego working on algae biofuel and cellulosic ethanol, and Potter Drilling hopes to make their geothermal drilling plans commercially viable. That's what I mean by game-changing, the possibility of massive amounts of clean energy and fuel produced in our own country without using petroleum as a primary product.
Here are a few of the California companies featured in the Cleantech 100 list:
Amonix creates concentrated solar systems that do not need water, a major advantage over other such systems (as they are usually located in deserts.)
Calera produces building materials from carbon dioxide and emissions that can be used instead of concrete. Yes, you read that right.
Serious Materials builds windows that aid in passive heating and cooling as well as blocking UV.
Bridgelux manufactures LED arrays of lights. CFLs are a transitional technology. LEDs will replace them. It's just a question of getting the price down, and that's already starting to happen. LED lights contain no mercury and last even longer than CFLs. Many municipalities are starting to use LEDs in street lights.
eMeter creates software for monitoring the smart grid. The more we know in real time about how much power we are using, the better our decisions will be about how and when to use it.
NanoH20 is working on processes to clean up and desalinate salt water and wastewater.
Bloom Energy. Back up and reserve power from fuel cells, in a package the size of a refrigerator.
While not on the list, Genomatica in San Diego is developing microbes that turn garbage into plastics. We're talking landfill garbage here. They're partnering with Waste Management, the largest trash hauler in the country, on the research. The less Waste Management has to landfill the better, and if what was waste becomes an income stream, so much the better. They already power some of their trucks from methane generated in landfills. If they can turn garbage into plastic, then this is much better for the environment and produces additional revenue as well. Everyone wins. The process works by burning garbage to produce syngas which microbes then eat and excrete as plastic. Thus, plastic is created without using petroleum.
We are living in gloomy economic times. However, California companies like these should give us all hope for the future.