100 Private Companies That Lead in GoingGreen

The AlwaysOn Network recently announced their Third Annual List of the GoingGreen 100 Top Private Companies of 2009.  The award recognizes the top private greentech companies that are creating new business opportunities and transforming the world’s largest industries to improve sustainability.Among the hundreds of companies evaluated, They selected the Oakland California-based, Brightsource Energy, a provider of solar energy to utlility companies, as the overall winner. There were category winners as well, in the areas of Biofuels, Clean Techology (not solar or biofuel), Clean Manufacturing, Energy Efficiency, Energy Storage, Green Transportation, Green Materials, Waste Management, Solar Energy, and Water Technology.

The companies were evaluated based on assessments of the breakthrough potential of their technologies, market size, management team, and investors. Both startups and well-established firms were evaluated. AlwaysOn surveyed hundreds of venture investors, investment bankers and industry experts, receiving more than 400 nominations. The AlwaysOn editorial team and a panel of industry experts from KPMG, Morgan Stanley, Manatt, Silicon Valley Bank, Goodwin Procter, The Artimis Project, Revolution Partners and Bridge Bank evaluated the nominations based on five criteria: innovation, market potential, commercialization, stakeholder value, and media buzz.

BrightSource Energy Named The Overall Leader
Overall Winner BrightSource Energy incorporates several key features that distinguish them from all other solar thermal processes. (1) They use a “power tower,” that is, one central steam boiler, where temperatures rise to over 500 degrees F. This is hot enough for the water to be condensed on the other side of the generator turbine using only an air cooler, which is far less expensive to build and operate. (2) The central boiler is served by a field of mirrors that reflect onto it; this solar field, unlike competing solar thermal technologies, does not require any plumbing into the field for thermal transfer fluid. (3) The mirrors in the solar field sit on a single pole, with individual two-axis tracking mechanisms on each mirror. Because there is nothing in the ground but one pole per mirror, the solar field can remain irregular and unimproved, also greatly lowering costs. In addition to their superior technology, BrightSource has taken the lead in securing substantial project financing and approvals, signing the world’s largest solar deal with Edison in Southern California earlier this year. The company is poised to become a significant supplier of electricity.  electricity at scale in the near future. BrightSource has been featured in the Las Vegas Sun, San Franciso Chronicle, New York Times, Greentech Media, San Jose Mercury News, and The World.

Other category winners are listed below:

The Biotech and Agriculture Category Winner
The winner in Biotech and Agriculture is Zeachem.  The company is a developer of biorefineries for the conversion of biomass into fuels and chemicals,  ZeaChem Inc. has developed a cellulose-based biorefinery platform capable of producing third-generation fuels and intermediate chemicals. ZeaChem’s indirect approach leapfrogs the yield and carbon dioxide (CO2) problems associated with traditional and cellulosic based biorefinery processes. Zeachem was selected as a Red Herring Top 100 Global Company and one of the 50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy by Biofuels Digest earlier this year.  Last year, the U.S. Department of Energy, presented them the Energy Innovator Award, They also recently raised $34 million to build a”third generation” cellulosic ethanol bioRefinery. The company is headquartered in Lakewood, Colorado and operates a research and development laboratory facility in Menlo Park, California.

The Clean Energy (not solar or biofuel) Category Winner
The winner in Clean Energy is the Houston-based Accelergy, which has a technology that they say turns coal into clean liquid fuel. Accelergy’s proprietary process can convert coal to a tunable range of fuels from gasoline to diesel to high quality synthetic jet fuel.

The Clean Manufacturing and Clean Products Category Winner
Clean Manufacturing and Clean Products winner, Wilson TurboPower, has a small, mobile turbine engine that can achieve efficiencies greater than 50%.  In 2008, the Woburn, MA firm secured nearly nearly $18 million from new and returning investors. Wilson TurboPower is using the funding to complete development of an exceptionally efficient and clean-burning ceramic-bladed microturbine that incorporates the Wilson Heat Exchanger™. Both breakthrough-efficiency technologies were invented at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  The company also secured $500,000 in funding from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative through its Renewable Energy Trust’s Sustainable Energy Economic Development (SEED) Initiative in 2008.

The Energy Management, Smart Grid & Energy Efficiency Category Winner
The Energy Management, Smart Grid & Energy Efficiency Category winner is WiTricity Corp, The Watertown, Massachusetts  startup has developed a technology to wirelessly transmit electricity, powering anything from small portable devices to EVs while they’re idling at a red light.  In January, Tricity was featured in both Forbes and Fast Company. The company’s founder, Professor Marin Soljačić was also awarded the MacArthur ‘Genius’ Fellowship late last year. The MacArthur Foundation grant is awarded to “people working on the very edge of discovery and people at the edge of a new synthesis.”

The Energy Storage Systems Category Winner
The Energy Storage Systems Category Winner is Porous Power Technologies, which manufactures ultra-thin lithium batteries that can wrap themselves up like a skin around irregular surfaces.  Porous was the Winner of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Best Early Venture Award at the 2008 Clean Energy Entrepreneur of the Year Competition.

The Green Automobiles & Transportation Category Winner
Coda Automotive
is the Green Automobiles & Transportation Category winner.  The Santa Monica-based company has manufactured thousands of low-speed vehicles,  and is now launching a freeway-capable, all-electric sedan—the Coda—at a relatively affordable price.  Over the summer, the company raised $24 million in a Series B investment round.  The capital will be used to support the development and 2010 California market entry of its all-electric sedan and funding of it battery manufacturing joint venture.

The Green Materials, Green Buildings & Green Nano/Micro-Tech Category Winner
The Green Materials, Green Buildings & Green Nano/Micro-Tech Category winner, is Calera.   The company, located in Los Gatos, California, can make cement from greenhouse gas emissions. The wastewater stream from Calera’s process is fresher, cleaner water, pretreated for desalination.  The company has recently been featured in Scientific American. Engineering News RecordWorld Watch Institute,   The Concrete Producer Magazine,  and Fast Company.

The Resource Recovery & Waste Management Category Winner
BioFuelBox
, based in San Jose, is the Resource Recovery & Waste Management  category winner.   The company manufactures a turnkey waste-to-energy system that fits into a single shipping container.  Waste FOG (Fats, Oils, Greases) is converted into biodiesel.  BioFuelBox partners with industrial and municipal waste generators and provides a completely outsourced onsite service at no cost to their partners.  In January, they deployed the world’s  first faste-FOG-to-fuel plant.   In July, BioFuelBox was included in the BusinessWeek and GreenBiz.com list of 25  Next Energy Innovators and they were featured in CleanTechnica earlier this year.

The Solar Energy Category Winner
The winner in the Solar Energy category is HelioVolt, which produces solar panels that can bend and conform to the exterior of a building.  Last year, HelioVolt,in partnership with the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) were awarded the Editor’s Choice Award for Most Revolutionary Technology from R&D Magazine and the R&D 100 Award from the magazine.  The company has been featured in USA Today, Fastech, WorldChanging, News 8 Austin, and The New York Times via GigaOm.

The Water Technology & Treatment Category Winner
Water Technology & Treatment category winner, AquaCritox has designed a process to purify sewage sludge while concurrently producing energy with the extracted wastes.  The Ireland-based firm as a process of disposing of wet waste (sewage sludge, putrescible waste and other organic materials) safely, quickly and efficiently while minimizing cost. AquaCritox® is a technology that destroys wet waste without the generation of any hazardous waste or emissions and in addition can be a source of renewable energy.

The AlwaysOn GoingGreen 100 Top Private Companies for 2009 were honored at GoingGreen West 2009 San Francisco last month.   A full list of all the GoingGreen 100 Top Private Companies can be found on the AlwaysOn website.

Note From The Editor: The companies on the list should be applauded for their achievements.  However, it is important to note that while  I was researching the winners, I discovered that a few of the investment companies that participated in the evaluation process, were investors in a few of the winning companies. For instance, Morgan Stanley is listed as an investor on clean coal company, Accelergy’s web site. Accerlergy was the Clean Energy category winner.  Morgan Stanley is also listed as an investor on BrightSource Energy’s web site.  BrightSource was the overall winner of the Going Green Top 100.  That potential glitch in the selection process also caught the attention of readers a last month when the Global Cleantech 100 listSeveral readers on our site and participants on some linkedin green groups raised some questions regarding the interests of the voters and their investments in the companies that they selected as winners.

It is my hope that the sponsors of these lists begin to reevaluate this practice of having investors and other potentially biased parties playing a major role in the assessment of these companies.  I fear if they do not, they risk having the value of these lists significantly devalued.   I hope in the future, AlwaysOn will consider providing readers with more insight into their methodology.  While it is a different type of list,  one thing I liked about Newsweek’s First Annual Green Rankings is the detail they provided in their explaination about the methodology. Also none of the panelist appeared to be affiliated with the companies being evaluated.  I believe transparency about the process engenders trust with the readers.

So, what companies do you think should have been included in the GoingGreen 100 Top Private Companies list and what you your think about the selection process.

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Author: Tracey de Morsella (323 Articles)

Tracey de Morsella started her career working as an editor for US Technology Magazine. She used that experience to launch Delaware Valley Network, a publication for professionals in the Greater Philadelphia area. Years later, she used the contacts and resources she acquired to work in executive search specializing in technical and diversity recruitment. She has conducted recruitment training seminars for Wachovia Bank, the Department of Interior and the US Postal Service. During this time, she also created a diversity portal called The Multicultural Advantage and published the Diversity Recruitment Advertising Toolkit, a directory of recruiting resources for human resources professionals. Her career and recruitment articles have appeared in numerous publications and web portals including Woman Engineer Magazine, Monster.com, About.com Job Search Channel, Workplace Diversity Magazine, Society for Human Resource Management web site, NSBE Engineering Magazine, HR.com, and Human Resource Consultants Association Newsletter. Her work with technology professionals drew her to pursuing training and work in web development, which led to a stint at Merrill Lynch as an Intranet Manager. In March, she decided to combine her technical and career management expertise with her passion for the environment, and with her husband, launched The Green Economy Post, a blog providing green career information and covering the impact of the environment, sustainable building, cleantech and renewable energy on the US economy. Her sustainability articles have appeared on Industrial Maintenance & Plant Operation, Chem.Info,FastCompany and CleanTechies.