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Cleantech 100 identifies top innovators in sustainability

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November 29, 2011

eSolar's 5 MW Sierra SunTower installation covers 20 acres and will provide power 'up to 4...

eSolar's 5 MW Sierra SunTower installation covers 20 acres and will provide power 'up to 4,000 homes.' Their panels track the sun using a patented heliostat system (Photo: eSolar)

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Recently the Cleantech Group, with the assistance of an advisory panel of corporate executives, sat down to decide upon the third annual Global Cleantech 100: the hundred "most promising and innovative" clean technology companies of 2011. The listed companies span a range of industries, and though solar energy firms, chemical recyclers, LED manufacturers and energy-monitoring software programmers certainly aren't under-represented, many companies in the hundred are defined by a single product or idea. Gizmag scoured the Cleantech 100 to find what we thought were the ten most innovative companies.

10. eSolar

Though there were many solar energy companies in the Cleantech 100, what impressed us about eSolar more than its product, was its attitude towards the viability of large-scale solar power installations. Its brand of concentrated solar power project, which employs solar thermal panels connected to heat engines to generate electricity, "start at 46 MW and are scalable to any size". The Sierra SunTower installation supplies only 5 MW, but still, it's one in the eye for the solar diminutivists.

9. JouleX

JouleX isn't unique in monitoring the energy consumption of devices across corporate networks, but apparently its energy management software can identify all devices on a network without requiring agents. This simplifies the installation and reduces maintenance. It can monitor lighting and air conditioning systems, and also has a rather good name.

8. GreenRoad

By understanding driver behavior, GreenRoad thinks it can save drivers money and fuel while making roads safer. Though they provide an ongoing feedback service, the idea centers on a simple, discreet feedback system installed on the dashboard which uses green, amber and red lights to give the driver feedback as to the economy of their driving. GreenRoad thinks it has saved the consumer US$97 million to date, though it's not absolutely clear which consumer.

7. Recyclebank

Recyclebank works on the very simple premise that people will recycle more if they're offered financial incentives. Through home recycling, Recyclebank registrants earn points, which can be redeemed at a number of shops, restaurants and the like. Obviously no one's going to get rich with this scheme, but it's an idea that almost gamifies the act of recycling, making it that little bit more interesting. Check those exchange rates, though. At the moment you need 400 points for a $10 discount from a PC game at the EA Store, while a mere 40 points will earn you the same discount from a $50 buy from Macy's.

6. Barefoot Power

Barefoot Power makes solar powered lights. That may not sound particularly remarkable, but it has identified that millions of children in the developing world do their homework by kerosene lamplight, a dim light from an expensive, potentially hazardous fuel source. Barefoot Power also provides affordably-priced plug and play home lighting systems. Though we're impressed that most of its products come with integrated phone chargers, we're more impressed by Barefoot Power's name, based as it is on words from a dictionary, with spaces and capital letters where they'd usually go.

5. HydroPoint

With its WeatherTRAK system using data from 40,000 weather stations, HydroPoint automates irrigation systems (right down to the yard sprinkler) so that water is provided only when needed, avoiding unnecessary consumption and preventing possible landscape damage. HydroPoint claims some landscapes are overwatered by 300 percent. If that's the case then this is a fabulous idea.

4. SunRun

In one sense SunRun is not a solar technology company, but that does not preclude it from innovating. Conscious of the cost-barrier that prevents many households from installing solar power, SunRun has come up with an alternative model. It will buy a solar installation for your roof and then provide you with energy for a fixed monthly fee. The idea is that consumers will save money on their energy bills overall while obtaining much of their energy from a clean renewable and extremely local source. "We won't let you go solar with SunRun if it's not a good financial decision for you," they pledge. Not convinced about the viability of domestic solar power? SunRun has based a business on it.

3. Novacem

Novacem claims its magnesium oxide cement is carbon negative. Magnesium oxide is produced by the heating of magnesium carbonates, but the carbon dioxide by-product is apparently recycled back into the process. Further, Novacem claims that any CO2 produced through materials-processing is eliminated by CO2 scrubbing (using magnesium silicates), and that its carbon negative cement matches Portland cement on cost and performance.

2. Kebony

Why chop down slow-growing hardwood from a precious natural habitat like a tropical rainforest when you can take fast-growing softwood from a sustainable source, and endow it with the the properties (including the appearance) of a hardwood using recycled biowaste? It costs a bit more than softwood to buy, but Kebony claims its eponymous product lasts three times as long. By our count that's a win-win-win-win scenario.

1. Emefcy

Emefcy reckons waste water treatment is responsible for a whole two peercent of global power consumption - a staggering 80,000 MW responsible for the emission of 57 million tons of carbon dioxide every year. With its bio-energy "Electrogenic Bioreactor", Emefcy's technology uses waste water as a renewable energy source, providing energy to the grid. It may not be the sexiest tech in the Cleantech 100, but Emefcy has taken a rather icky problem and devised a remarkable yet simple solution. Top marks.

Just one more thing

Though this shouldn't necessarily reflect upon the listed companies, it is worth noting who Cleantech cites as being among its 70 advisors who helped whittle a shortlist of 213 down to the final hundred. ABB, BASF, BP DuPont, GE, General Motors, Proctor and Gamble, and Vestas all had a say. Vestas aside, they do make wind turbines after all, it seems a curious list to be judging on (as opposed to sponsoring, or investing in) the hundred most promising and innovative clean technology companies, especially BP given its arduous 2010.

Further, the Cleantech press release admits that GE (along with Siemens) is the "most active partner with 2011 Global Cleantech 100 companies", so one must bear this in mind before deciding that the list is in any way impartial: investors have probably helped to shortlist their investees. We're not knocking the Cleantech 100. It doesn't claim impartiality. But if another list came along that was decided upon by, say, environmental academics, we'd certainly have a good nose at that too.

Source: Cleantech Group.

About the Author
James Holloway James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life.   All articles by James Holloway
5 Comments

Yeah, the "advisor" list is ludicrous, IMHO!

Renārs Grebežs
29th November, 2011 @ 11:30 pm PST

I'm sure they're all very innovative green companies. If only they generated reasonable amounts of electricity.

Todd Dunning
30th November, 2011 @ 10:26 am PST

The eco-cynics of the world should bear in mind that we are still just scratching the surface of eco-technology's potential. Like every other technological revolution, the early attempts at innovation are the baby steps of what is to come. It is clear from Gizmag's DAILY feed of increasingly cheap and efficient new green-power products that in another five years of increasing oil prices, green energy sources will be a no-brainer

Ben Grillet
1st December, 2011 @ 05:17 am PST

We need to build massive solar arrays in places with intense sunlight, but what would really do the trick is a solar array in orbit that could beam back by laser perhaps, an intense beam of energy that could power almost everything.

Ed temple
1st December, 2011 @ 06:58 pm PST

Excellent collection.

Anumakonda Jagadeesh
3rd December, 2011 @ 09:43 am PST
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