Posted: October 20, 2011
The envelope, please…
Presenting the regional finalists at the Cleantech OpenBy Eric Peterson
"These are interesting times, are they not?" boomed the inimitable L. Hunter Lovins, president and founder of Natural Capitalism Solutions in her opening remarks at the Cleantech Open Rocky Mountain Award Ceremony at the University of Denver's Cable Center. Clad in a cowboy hat and a thoroughly Western getup, Lovins brought up a slide on the big screen, reading, "The Problem: Economic Stagnation."
"We believe we can entrepreneur ourselves out of the situation we're in now," she said. Noting that jobs and construction spending were both at 30 year lows, Lovins cited study after study by old-guard companies like Goldman Sachs that indicated that companies that lead the way in terms of sustainability were the ones who saw their share prices rise the most.
"The economy's cratering but these sustainability leaders are doing very well," she said. "Do the math: Green jobs are about the only jobs that are growing." Lovins pointed out that a recent and much-referenced story that green jobs had not boomed was erroneous; green jobs in the U.S. have grown by 57 percent since 2006, as compared to 30 percent growth in Internet-related employment.
"In two years, we brought in more wind than Japan has nuclear capacity," she noted. "We have a choice: We manufacture in this country or we but our energy future from the Chinese."
But the support for green-leaning startups isn't always there, Lovins added, which is why events like the Cleantech Open are critical to getting the country out ot the economic doldrums. "Entrepreneurs aren't born-they're made," she said. "We know how to do it. Organizations like the Cleantech Open allow entrepreneurs to learn and grow."
The following companies won trophies for their business plans and presentations. National winners will be chosen Nov. 15 and 16 in San Jose, Calif.
Arbource, Scottsdale, Arizona
ARB is an acronym for anode respiring bacteria, and Arbsource aims to harness these microorganisms to do big things in the $31.5-billion wastewater treatment industry. Their patent-pending ARBCell that cleans wastewater with 70 percent less power and creates 80 percent less sludge-as well as a marketable commodity in hydrogen gas-for a total savings of 50 percent. Supported by the Arizona State University Edson Student Entrepreneurship Initiative, the company is aiming to initially sell to breweries and other food and beverage companies. CEO/founder Mark Sholin said the company aimed to make "the business of wastewater treatment from a costly output to a sellable product."
GeoTree Technologies, Lafayette, Colorado
GeoTree has developed several next-generation products for the rehabilitation of stormwater, sewer, and potable water pipes. The company's GeoSpray is a polymer-based mortar made largely of industrial waste that can be applied by robots without ripping up pavement to get at the pipe. The end result: "a pipe within a pipe." Carbon emissions drop by over 90 percent, said Executive VP Benjamin Cook. "You don't have to bring in any equipment because you're not cutting the road." The market is huge (Denver has $3 billion worth of pipe infrastructure alone, said Cook); the company has already shipped several hundred tons of materials to date.
US e- Chromic, Boulder, Colorado
"We are creating intelligent windows for a better environment," said US e-Chromic President and CEO Loren Burnett. The "electrochromic" thin film reflects sunlight on demand, reducing air-conditioning costs by as much as 40 percent. There are nearly 20 billion square feet of existing windows in the U.S. that can be retrofit with the film. The technology originated at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado; Burnett is a veteran of several technology-transfer ventures.
Dragonfly Solutions, Salt Lake City, Utah (in the process of relocating to Colorado)
Founded by L. Brent Ivie and Jacqueline Zielenski, Dragonfly Solutions makes hardware that helps users regulate electrical systems and make them run more efficiently. "Electrical loads fluctuate, and that's a problem," said Ivie, the company's CEO/CFO/CTO. Dragonfly's technology can result in over 30 percent cut in a school's energy costs, he added. "It's the best ROI on the market."
ON THE WEB: www.cleantechopen.com
Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Montana & Wyoming, Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver's Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at Eptcb126@msn.com