Beyond the new energy economy

Mention “clean tech,” “green tech” or the “new energy economy” and you’ll likely conjure visions of solar panels, wind turbines and algae fuel ponds. The 15 semifinalists selected for the Rocky Mountain edition of the Cleantech Open aim to add a few other members to that club.

How about combating pine beetle devastation, detecting oil well leaks and treating wastewater? Those are just a few examples of the technology under way by the companies selected from Colorado, Arizona, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming to compete in the second year of the regional contest.

Initiated in California five years ago, the Cleantech Open already operates in five regions and more than 20 states. The 15 finalists were culled from more than 50 applicants. That brand of competition will help prepare the winners to compete on a global scale.

“It’s about American entrepreneurism and innovation,” said Richard Franklin, co-chair of the Cleantech Open, Rocky Mountain chapter, during a press conference at the Wellington Web Municipal Building in Denver in June. “It’s about the battle we’ll have over the next 20 years with China.”

And to underscore the regional foothold the contest has gained since its Western debut, only three of the 15 companies this year are from Colorado, compared to eight out of 12 last year.

“We are a six-state region. The fact that we have semifinalists from every other state in the region plus New Jersey and Texas is all positive,” Franklin said after the press conference. “In fact, the New Jersey firm is moving to Colorado.”

The semifinalist teams will receive mentoring and business training plus the chance to win $30,000 in funding and in-kind donations. Three teams will advance to the national competition where teams from across the U.S. will compete for a grand prize of $250,000 in cash and services. The national awards take place Nov. 17.

Andre Pettigrew, executive director of the Denver Office of Economic Development, said the clean-tech sector is growing faster than any other as the economy emerges from a recession. “It will give us the opportunity to compete all over the world,” he said.

The competition offers more than $1 million in prizes and aims to create 100,000 green-collar jobs in America by the end of 2015.

Bill Lowstutter, whose Golden company SunTrac Solar, was a 2009 Cleantech Open finalist, warned the semifinalists that they’re about to go on a wild ride as they participate in training programs to help them to better market and develop their companies.

“The amount of information you’re going to be given is like drinking water from a firehouse,” Lowstutter said. “Drink as much as you can, but don’t lose your head.”

The 2010 Rocky Mountain Cleantech Open semifinalists:

BioVantage (Golden) has developed a scalable algae production system for wastewater treatment.

CleanEngines (Fort Collins) has developed a direct injection two-stroke engine retrofit kit.

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DenDroCo (Helena, Mont.) has produced a product designed to control pine bark beetle infestation that has threatened forests in the West.

DIAL Emissions Monitoring (North Logan, Utah) has developed a remote sensor technology to monitor emissions and detect leakage from oil and gas wells

eQsolaris (Los Alamos, N.M.): brings three separate new technologies to photovoltaics; small spherical silicon photodiodes, micro-concentrators, and flexible network circuits to form low-cost manufactured photovoltaic panels.

Go Natural CNG (Woods Cross, Utah) has developed patented new technologies for natural gas engines and fuel station compressors.

Greenwall (Rio Rancho, N.M.) provides a green alternative to the traditional concrete wall using lava aggregate, filler and cement to form a block.

H.O.T. Water Co. (Salt Lake City, Utah) has developed a new HOT (heightened ozonation treatment) technique coupled with sand filtration to remove oil from contaminated water generated from oil and gas exploration and pumping.

Infinirel Early Warning Systems (Frisco, Texas) uses data analysis and maintenance scheduling support to assure renewable energy service providers of maximum equipment uptime at the lowest service.

INOTEC (Salt Lake City, Utah). This company’s electrobiochemical reactor distributes electrons to microbes in a manner that provides them with energy to more efficiently transform and remove contaminants found in waste and drinking waters.

NDCPower (Cheyenne, Wyo.) has developed a new fuel cell technology using coal to generate for commercial electric power generation without greenhouse gases

PCM Innovations (Longmont) developed esBits, a formulation for encapsulated phase change material that is both fireproof and easily incorporated into most existing building products. PCMs are a lightweight thermal mass material that can decrease energy consumption in buildings more than 25 percent.

pureSilicon (Clifton, N.J.) has developed its Nitro solid-state drives, a new storage technology that could reduce server energy consumption by up to 75 percent.

Verdant Earth Technologies (Tucson, Ariz.) is commercializing controlled environment agriculture technologies for the greenhouse industry. Its technology allows plants to be grown without sunlight or soil anywhere electricity and water are available.

VolumeWind (North Logan, Utah). This company’s 3D wind-profiling technology offers real-time wind turbine control and wind farm siting.
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