Fifteen Green Companies Compete For Finalist Slots at the Cleantech Open Today

10/4/10

Today is the day many in the in the local cleantech community have been waiting for. The Cleantech Open, a national business plan competition for clean technology and energy startups, plans to announce the Pacific Northwest regional finalists at the Bell Harbor Conference Center at Pier 66 in Seattle this evening. This event will bring together 15 semifinalists with a variety of different cleantech ideas to improve energy efficiency, transportation, green building, renewable energy, water, and energy storage. The startups are competing for three regional prizes worth as much as $30,000 each, and a shot at progressing through to the national competition, for a grand prize worth $250,000.

While the headlines will go to the winners, the judges will get a lot of exposure all 15 companies throughout the day, as this year’s semifinalists will be on hand to present their ideas.

Though we’ve reported on a handful of these startups before, most of them are new to our radar screen. We thought we’d take this opportunity to take a look at each of the competing startups by sector, and what makes them an innovative contender for the Cleantech Open winners circle.

Efficiency:

Aquapulser, Seattle, WA

Aquapulser is an engineering and power electronics startup that develops high energy plasma ignition systems for use in combustion engines. The startup won the MIT Enterprise Forum of the Northwest Startup Demo competition in December. Aquapulser will have a live plasma ignition display at the Cleantech Open.

LaserMotive, Kent, WA

This startup is developing laser power beaming systems to transmit electricity without wires to things like unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), where wires would be a physical impossibility. LaserMotive won a $900,000 NASA competition to build a small prototype device in November 2009. The company hopes to use its technology to power “space elevators,” and UVAs in flight. The company will have a live laser transmission display at the Cleantech Open.

Nanocel, Seattle, WA

Nanocel develops electronic liquid cooling technology based on a combination of microfluidics and plastic materials that remove heat from devices like computers, servers, and medical equipment. The company, spun out of the University of Washington by founder and mechanical engineering PhD student Dustin Miller and UW MBA graduate Daniel Rossi, won the UW’s yearly business plan competition in May 2009, for a $25,000 prize.

Transportation:

Arcimoto, Eugene, OR

Arcimoto, founded in 2007, develops ultra-efficient electric vehicles. The company currently has three fully functional prototype vehicles, which it says it plans to bring to market. The three-wheeled vehicles are designed to support multiple range and battery configurations, and have zero tailpipe emissions. One of the startup’s prototypes will be on display at the Cleantech Open.

Current Motor Company, Ann Arbor, MI

Current Motor Company is a joint venture between REVolution Electric Vehicles and Electric Vehicle Manufacturing.The goal is to produce an all-electric scooter for the consumer market. The company manufactures fully electric motorcycles, and currently has four product lines for sale in the U.S.

viaCycle, Atlanta, GA

Atlanta-based viaCycle develops advanced bicycle sharing technologies, including an electronic locking system that uses GPS and wireless communications to allow bicycle sharing companies to provide services without expensive kiosks, or specialized bike racks. The startup, spun out of the Georgia Institute of Technology, was one of five finalists in the 2010 MIT Clean Energy Prize, where it won $15,000.

Zebigo, Spokane, WA

Zebigo is a national, on-demand ride sharing community website that matches riders to drivers based on location and time. Signup is free, and members can be either riders, or drivers (who are paid through Zebigo to drive others to destinations on time), or both. The company rolled out its ride sharing network in Seattle in June.

Green Building:

EnVitrum, Seattle, WA

EnVitrum develops environmentally friendly building materials by packing 100 percent of recycled glass from landfills or recycling centers into renewable building bricks. The company won the grand prize at the University of Washington’s 2010 Environmental Innovation Challenge. While conventional bricks cost anywhere from 20 to 25 cents to produce, EnVitrum says its bricks can be manufactured at large scale for 10 to 15 cents each.

GreenStone International, Seattle, WA

GreenStone International develops an enzyme that, when mixed and compacted with clay, creates a durable, waterproof, and environmentally friendly road that is inexpensive to build, and has a lifespan of over 15 years. The startup won the $10,000 grand prize at Seattle University’s Harriet Stephenson Business Plan Competition in May.

Renewable Energy:

Columbia Power Technologies, Corvallis, WA

Founded in 2005 by Greenlight Energy Resources, in partnership with Oregon State University, Columbia Power Technologies develops commercial wave energy harvesting devices that use off-shore, direct-drive permanent-magnet generator topologies. In June, the company partnered with global renewable energy consultancy GL Garrad Hassan to demonstrate and analyze its Manta Wave Energy Converter device in sea trials.

Hydrovolts, Seattle, WA

Hydropower startup Hydrovolts develops drop-in hydropower turbines for canals and small waterways. The companywas the 2009 Pacific Northwest Cleantech Open National Sustainability winner. Last week Hydrovolts was selected as one of five finalists up for $175,000 in venture funding at the Bend Venture Conference. Last month the startup received a $250,000 development deal from civil engineering firm DLZ Corp. to develop a prototype turbine, a deal that could result in a $20 million contract.

Innovatus Energy, Toledo, WA

This biofuels company uses thermal processes to turn biomass into either a hydrogen rich gas that can be used as a gaseous fuel for distributed power, or converted into diesel, gasoline, methanol, ethanol, or jet fuels. Innovatus Energy, originally called Woody Gasifier, changed its name when it expanded its business into biomass energy systems, and gas-to-liquid technologies in April.

Mercurius Biofuels, Bellingham, WA

Mercurius Biofuels was founded in July 2009, with the support of the Whole Energy Fuels Corporation. Mercurius converts biomass into compounds that can create cellulosic diesel, gasoline, jet fuel, and a number of other green chemicals. The company currently uses technology licensed from the Energy and Environmental Research Center (EERC), that does not use enzymes or fermentation, which can be slow and inefficient, and does not produce a carbon dioxide byproduct, as cellulosic ethanol does.

Water:

Puralytics, Beaverton, OR

Purlytics is a water purification company that uses photochemical technology to remove a broad range of contaminants from water supplies without using chemicals and additives, and with no water waste. The company seeks to get rid of organic compounds (pharmaceuticals, pesticides, herbicides, petrochemicals, and personal care products), heavy metals (lead, mercury, arsenic, and selenium), and micro-organisms (viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and cysts). Purlytics has received grants from the National Science Foundation and the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI).

Energy Storage:

CyVolt, Seattle, WA

CyVolt develops hybrid fuel cell technology to extend the runtime of handheld consumer electronics, when they can’t be plugged in for a recharge. Using renewable fuel, the device captures and stores electrons in its fuel cells that consumers can then swap into the recyclable fuel cartridges when needed. The technology is compatible with most portable electronics that use lithium ion batteries, and is renewable, green, and non-flammable.

Thea Chard is a correspondent for Xconomy Seattle. You can e-mail her at theachard@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/theachard. Follow @

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