What do 10 young companies building technologies as varied as fuel cells, solar manufacturing, battery subscription services, and coal gasification technology all have in common? They’re all finalists for the Ignite Clean Energy business plan competition in Massachusetts, and on Tuesday they will be competing for cash prizes in front of judges and an audience. While only three companies can win prizes ($35,000, $10,000 and $5,000 plus services), the entire lot shows a whole lot of promise. Here’s the 10 early-stage greentech startups in the running:
ARRIBA Solar: To help push down the cost of solar technology, the solar industry needs a manufacturing revolution, not just new materials, Josie pointed out last week in a profile about startup 1366 Technologies. Well, Arriba Solar, seems to have a similar approach and describes itself as a “process control company” with technology that enables solar makers to view the composition and thickness of solar cells during the manufacturing process in real time. More transparency means a more efficient process and more efficient solar panels.
DyPol Fuel Cells: Fuel cells! Every greentech business competition’s got ’em. DyPol is developing a process to create ultra thin membranes for fuel cells using a layered process, which the company says can produce methanol fuel cells for a low cost to be used at a low temperature. According to Xconomy the company is looking to bring in revenue from other applications for its membranes like water filtration, while the market for methanol fuel cells matures.
EGG-energy: Sometimes its not bleeding edge technology, but the business model that’s the innovation. EGG-energy is a battery subscription company that provides rechargeable batteries and lights to low-income communities that don’t have access to the power grid. The team describes it as “Netflix for batteries” and when a customer has used up one of the batteries, which the company says can power a house for three nights, the user can exchange it for a fully charged one. The result is far less dirty kerosene is burned for power.
Hydrocoal Technologies: Getting to “cleaner coal sooner,” is the startup’s slogan. The company says it has developed an economical way to gasify and liquify coal, which can then be used for power generation. The company says coal in this form can be as clean to burn as natural gas, if not cleaner. I’m interested in learning more about just how much carbon emissions the company’s liquid and gasified coal produces, as I’ve read some horror stories about liquid coal.
InnoSepra: If you watched the rise and fall and semi-return of FutureGen, you know how expensive developing carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology for power generation can be. New Jersey-based InnoSepra is looking to reduce the cost of CCS by 50 percent to less than $25/ton. According to this blurb about the company back in February, InnoSepra plans to raise $2 million to $4 million for its first and second phases and $9 million for its third phase.
IntAct Labs: IntAct Labs is focusing on the intersection of biotechnology and electronics — an interesting union that doesn’t often get a lot of attention. Applications in that area include a microbial fuel cell — which harvests the excess electrons that bacteria generate as they metabolize organic matter — as well as biosensors and photoactive proteins. The company says its microbial fuel cell can treat wastewater without putting any energy into the system, which could lead to cheaper water treatment technology.
The Paper Battery Company: The Paper Battery Company is developing what you might imagine: paper-thin sheets of material that can store energy. The sheets can be molded into different shapes and layers, and since they’re made of cellulose, they are biodegradable and non-toxic. Right now the technology is more expensive than conventional batteries but the researchers are working on lower cost manufacturing techniques. Check out the video of the paper battery below.
POWERleap: Tapping into the power of movement, whether its human footsteps or vehicles, is the idea behind POWERleap. What began as a design thesis at the University of Michigan has now morphed into a year-old company that is finalizing the designs of its floor energy harvesting product. The company is looking to raise funds for pilot testing and tech validation.
Resolute Marine Energy: Wave power — harnessing the oceans and rivers to generate power — has had some trouble in the commercialization process LINK?. But Resolute Marine Energy seems pretty confident. The company says its wave energy converter (WEC) technology will “serve 700,000 people in developing nations and will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 78,000 tons/year” by 2014. The first product is a WEC-enabled desalination seawater unit.
Velkess: The two-year-old company says it has developed a new kind of flywheel (spinning discs that store energy and help stabilize electricity grids) that is cheaper and more stable and safe than conventional flywheels. The company says it’s currently working on developing and proving large scale prototypes for power grid applications.