The Clean Tech Open, a nonprofit business plan competition for early-stage startups focused on renewable energy, green building and other cleantech markets, announced today the three winners in the Rocky Mountain region. New Sky Energy, Rivertop Renewables and SunTrac Solar will each receive $50,000 in cash and in-kind services and move on to compete (along with the six finalists from California and three finalists from the Pacific Northwest) for additional prizes and the national title to be awarded in San Francisco later this month. They also join a growing list of impressive Clean Tech Open alumni, including GreenVolts and Adura Technologies, that have together raised more than $130 million in private financing since the competition began in 2006. For the three winners, the prize could be the ticket needed to open up doors among the venture capital community.
New Sky Energy: The Boulder, Colo.-based startup uses chemical technology to convert carbon dioxide into baking soda and other carbonates. These feedstocks could be used in the production of common products like building materials, plastics and fabrics, thereby capturing and storing the CO2. New Sky calls itself the world’s first “carbon-negative manufacturing company.”
The idea of capturing CO2 and putting it to use in new products has gained steam in recent years, spurred at least partly by government actions to cap greenhouse gas emissions. Calera, for example, wants to use the gas to produce an alternative to cement and Carbon Sciences wants to turn CO2 into gasoline and other fuels.
Rivertop Renewables: The Missoula, Mont.-based startup has developed a way to make glucaric acid and other biodegradable chemicals from renewable plant sugars. Plastics, pharmaceuticals and polyesters use petroleum as a feedstock in their production. Rivertop wants to replace these petrochemical building blocks with renewable chemicals, and the startup says its platform technology can produce them at an economical price and on an industrial scale. A number of well-funded biofuels startups, including Rennovia, have the same idea.
SunTrac Solar/Energistic Systems: Golden, Colo.-based startup Energistic Systems has designed a single-axis tracking solar collector called SunTrac Solar for heating residential and commercial hot water. The startup says its technology delivers hot water at the lowest installed cost per BTU on the market today and takes up only about half the space compared to current designs. The system can deliver water at temperatures to 250 degrees Fahrenheit that can be used for space heating and process water. Each collector uses a simple 12-volt motor to drive its rotation during the day, and the system is designed for a 20-year life.