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Cleantech Startups Take the Stage at TED

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credit: TED / James Duncan DavidsonIn addition to the new Aptera specs and the debut of the new Mission One electric motorcycle, the 2009 TED Conference has had plenty of cleantech entrepreneurs up on stage this week.

Shai Agassi, CEO of Better Place, spoke yesterday, throwing out the audacious claim that there could be 100 million electric cars on the road by 2016, up from 100,000 in 1011. While Earth2Tech readers may be familiar with his schtick, it produced one of the biggest standing ovations of the conference so far.

Agassi compared using oil as energy to the immoral use of slave labor, and urged a dismissal of “little 20-percent growth” targets in favor of ambition. He also rejected the idea that these changes can only happen in the distant future, predicting that oil costs will go right back up again as soon as our economy recovers.

When solving big questions, the two important numbers are zero — zero oil — and infinity — scaling this to infinity. Not little 20 percent growth…If we don’t change this, we’ll lose our economy right after we lose our morality.

Of course, Better Place flat-out requires that kind of audacity, since its vision — of electric charging stations, battery swap centers, and a re-envisioning of car ownership whereby usage subsidizes the price of the device — requires so much infrastructure.

We also heard from Earth2Tech wonderboy (and Green:Net conference speaker) Saul Griffith, who talked up Makani Power‘s method of generating wind power using kites. Within two years, he said, he will put hundreds of kilowatts worth of machines in the sky. Just a paper plane is enough to power a cell phone — larger machines can do much more.

ecorockAnother Earth2Tech regular, Serious Materials founder Kevin Surace, talked up the company’s first factory production of its EcoRock drywall, which uses no gypsum and requires less energy to produce than normal drywall.

And lastly, one we haven’t written about before: Jon LaGrou, the co-founder of Safeplug, presented a system of power outlets with microprocessors and plugs with memory chips (these can be slid onto existing plugs to retrofit them). LaGrou pointed out that Thomas Edison invented the circuit beaker in 1879, and some 83 percent of home fires start below the circuit breaker safety limit. Safeplug addresses this by detecting overloads at the outlet level. The system also prevents shocks and saves power by only providing power to used outlets. Update: The device can be used to manage some energy consumption, but we want to know more!

Image credit: TED/James Duncan Davidson