Even in the depths of the downturn, Silicon Valley keeps the tech faith, and these days that faith has a green sheen. So while the news is full of layoffs and cutbacks — even at companies like electric car maker Tesla Motors — the California Clean Tech Open competition Thursday night was handing out $600,000 to a half-dozen startups that hope to be the green tech titans of the future. For instance, GreenVolts, a 2006 winner, is now building a solar power plant for utility PG&E.
The Clean Tech Open held its first bake-off in the more economically optimistic times of 2006 but bleak days doesn’t appear to have cooled the competition. This year 43 finalists vied for “start-up in a box” packages that include $50,000 in cash and $50,000 worth of business services. The contest is backed by a who’s who of Silicon Valley tech firms (Google (GOOG), Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) ), utilities (PG&E (PCG), Southern California Edison (EIX), San Diego Gas & Electric (SRE) ) and government energy labs. Venture capitalists and other business leaders serve as judges.
Here then are six startups that the judges think point the way to the future:
- Viridis Earth of San Jose, Calif., has developed a product to retrofit air conditioners to reduce their electricity consumption by 20%.
- Focal Point Energy, also of San Jose, is developing industrial solar hot water and steam generation systems.
- ElectraDrive of San Francisco retrofits gasoline-powered cars to run on electricity.
- BottleStone will produce a substitute for stone and concrete building materials that is 80% recycled glass. The Los Altos Hills, Calif., company claims its production process cuts greenhouse gas emissions by 42% .
- Power Assure of Santa Clara, Calif., is developing energy efficiency management software for power-hogging data centers.
- Over the Moon Diapers, another San Francisco startup, makes environmentally friendly diapers.