The Xconomy Guide to the Northwest’s Cleantech Clusters

3/9/09Follow @gthuang

Last week, we published a series of three stories documenting the companies and organizations in the Pacific Northwest that are focused on alternative energy and cleantech. We organized the lists by geography, breaking out separate lists for companies in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia. Now we can take a step back, analyze the trends in each region, and—although the lists aren’t comprehensive—compare them to one another in terms of their strengths and weaknesses.

But first, some big-picture trends from the whole Northwest. We catalogued 160 organizations in total—27 of them working on alternative fuels (17 percent), 18 on solar power (11 percent), 16 on wind power (10 percent), and 19 on other alternative energy sources like geothermal, nuclear, and hydro (12 percent). Thirteen companies specialize in transportation technologies like hybrid vehicles and engines (8 percent), while nine are focused on fuel cells (6 percent). We counted 15 organizations focused on smart-grid technologies and electricity management (9 percent). And in total, 20 of the companies (13 percent) have a strong software component to their products, while seven are focused on energy storage or new materials (4 percent).

“We haven’t quite seen anything like what’s happening in the energy space,” says Rick LeFaivre, managing director at OVP Venture Partners in Kirkland, WA, which has invested in several alternative energy companies on the West Coast. “There’s a huge drive for cleantech. We’ve hit an inflection point.”

Washington
is the clear leader in software and alternative fuels, with about one-fifth of its 83 organizations focused on each of these areas. Its leaders in energy software include Optimum Energy, Powerit, and Verdiem, while a new generation of biofuels technology is emerging, led by the likes of Arzeda, Bionavitas, and Boeing. The state is also strong in smart grid and electricity management, with 11 companies in this emerging arena, including Itron and Areva T&D. For its cluster size and level of activity, however, Washington does not have many venture firms or angel networks with a focus on cleantech (we counted just three—Arch Venture Partners, OVP Venture Partners, and Northwest Energy Angels).

Oregon is strong in solar, wind, and biofuels, with about one-fifth of its 36 cleantech organizations focused on each of these. SolarWorld and SpectraWatt are leaders in solar, … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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