San Diego’s Cleantech Cluster: The A to Z List of Clean-Technology and Alternative-Energy Innovation

Who’s Who in San Diego cleantech innovation?

At Xconomy San Diego, we wanted to answer that question as completely as possible, so we put together an accounting of all the local companies that are creating new ways to make biofuels, clean the environment, and improve the energy efficiency of our vehicles, homes, and businesses. In preparing our list, we owe a debt of gratitude to the nonprofit industry group Cleantech San Diego, which has compiled on its website a comprehensive inventory of every company under the sun with ties to the cleantech and renewable energy industries. We winnowed that list down to just the companies that are focused squarely on technological innovation (as opposed to other players in the cleantech arena, such as solar panel installers and engineering consultants).

Of course, our list likely isn’t comprehensive, and like so many good things, it will be outdated soon. If you know any companies we missed, please send us an e-mail addressed to “editors at”  (And if your interests lie further north, Xconomy Seattle recently published its guide to the cleantech clusters of the Pacific Northwest, breaking out separate lists for Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia.)

Achates Power (San Diego, CA)
This venture-backed startup is developing a fuel-efficient, cleaner-burning diesel engine, based on a two-cycle, opposed-piston internal combustion design.

AdaptiveARC (San Diego, CA)
This waste-to-clean-energy startup is developing an arc-plasma reactor and related technologies and services that offer an alternative to landfills.

Allylix (San Diego, CA)
Allylix has developed technology to synthesize terpenes, a class of hydrocarbons naturally produced by conifers and other plants. The company has licensed its technology to an unnamed cleantech company to develop and commercialize terpene fuels and fuel additives.

Ambient Control Systems (El Cajon, CA)
Ambient has developed a customized solar energy device with a computerized energy management and control system to power and operate remote sensor and surveillance networks.

American Biodiesel and Community Fuels (Encinitas, CA)
This company conducts biofuels research and development, using animal fats, vegetable oils, waste oils, and other alternative feedstocks to produce biodiesel.

Amulaire Thermal Technology (San Diego, CA)
Amulaire uses proprietary technology to make heat-dissipation products used in liquid cooling systems, including those used in hybrid electric vehicles, alternative energy power generation systems, and LED systems.

Aptera Motors (Carlsbad, CA)
Aptera is using ultra-light composite materials to make an aerodynamic two-seater hybrid electric vehicle that is technically a motorcycle. Backed by $20 million from Bill Gross’s Idealab, the company also plans an all-electric model.

Assure Controls (Vista, CA)
Assure Controls uses patented bioluminescence technology to rapidly detect toxic levels of contaminants in water and soils.

Balboa Pacific (Del Mar, CA)
Balboa has developed a pyrolytic gasification waste treatment technology that destroys solid and liquid organic wastes, including toxic materials, reducing the feedstock to a sterile ash and hot exhaust gases.

Biomatrica (San Diego, CA)
Biomatrica has developed technology to store biological samples at room temperature, eliminating the need for expensive refrigerator storage equipment in biological laboratories.

Bull Moose Energy (San Diego, CA)
This company is developing a 23 MW power plant fueled by biomass waste in Otay Mesa, CA, about 25 miles southeast of San Diego.

California Wind Systems (Carlsbad, CA)
An early stage company, California Wind Systems is developing a patented wind impeller system for residential and commercial rooftop installations.

Carbon Capture Corp. (San Diego, CA)
Based in La Jolla, Carbon Capture operates a 40-acre algae research center in the Imperial Valley, where it is developing ways to use algae to absorb carbon dioxide emitted from gas- and coal-fired power plants. The aim of the system is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate the growth of algae being developed as a feedstock in biofuels technologies.

CEYX Technologies (San Diego, CA)
Venture-backed CEYX provides software that enables electronics design teams to replace a power-hungry circuit board with a digital file embedded in custom or off-the-shelf microprocessors.

Chai Energy (Del Mar, CA)
Chai is developing alternative energy technologies, including nanoscale fusion and fuel cells for use in vehicles and in other applications.

Clean Air Power (Poway, CA)
This company has pioneered the use of dual-fuel technologies that allow heavy duty diesel engines to operate primarily on natural gas, with diesel fuel acting as a “liquid spark plug.”

Cross Technologies (Cardiff, CA)
A privately held company founded by Ken Cross, a chemical engineer, who has developed various nano-catalyst technologies for the remediation of groundwater polluted by chlorinated hydrocarbons, as well as other applications.

EcoLayers (San Diego, CA)
This company develops information management software for helping non-profit organizations, government agencies, and other land stewards manage their environmental assets.

Energy Eye (San Diego, CA)
Energy Eye designs and manufactures wireless devices that monitor room occupancy in hotel rooms, schools, office buildings, and other buildings, providing energy conservation and cost savings.

Enpex (Del Mar, CA)
Enpex specializes in developing and deploying advanced energy technologies, including enhanced oil recovery techniques and fluidized bed coal combustion.

Enviance (Carlsbad, CA)
Privately held Enviance is a developer of Internet-based software that automates and improves management of environmental, health, and safety compliance activities.

Envirepel Energy (Vista, CA)
Envirepel has developed proprietary waste-to-energy technology that produces electricity and heat by burning municipal solid waste, sludge, vegetation, and other biomass.

Envision Solar (San Diego, CA)
Envision is an architectural firm developing proprietary designs for converting parking lots into “solar groves” of commercial photovoltaic energy systems.

Fallbrook Technologies (San Diego, CA)
Fallbrook holds more than 200 issued and pending patents for a continuously variable transmission that helps improve the fuel efficiency of vehicle engines.

Filmetrics (San Diego, CA)
This company makes instruments for measuring thin-layer films, including semiconductor and photovoltaic films that can be used by manufacturing line operators at a fraction of the cost of conventional instruments.

Fleet Biodiesel (San Diego, CA)
Fleet Biodiesel develops and sells diagnostic test kits for new biofuels coming to market and identifies industry best practices for biodiesel distribution and use.

Float (San Diego, CA)
With development funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and others, Float has developed pneumatically stabilized platforms for use as oil and gas production facilities, offshore military bases, harbors, and other facilities. The platform design can use wave energy to generate electricity.

General Atomics (San Diego, CA)
Privately held General Atomics develops a range of industrial products and services, include nuclear fission and fusion reactor technologies, de-icing technology, maglev transportation technology, and hazardous waste minimization & destruction.

Genomatica (San Diego, CA)
An advanced bioinformatics and biotechnology company developing methods to design and engineer living cells to produce industrial quantities of valuable biological and chemical compounds.

Greenward Technologies (San Diego, CA)
An early stage company developing a prototype energy-generating windmill design, which uses four counter-rotating turbines to negate the air turbulence generated in the wake of a large, single-turbine windmill.

GreenCore Capital (San Diego, CA)
GreenCore is a private equity firm that operates much like a venture capital firm by investing in startup companies developing promising renewable energy companies.

Hadronex (Escondido, CA)
Privately held Hadronex has developed remote wireless sensing technology to monitor wastewater collection systems for sewage overflows resulting from blockages or flooding.

Helix Wind (San Diego, CA)
A startup founded in 2006, Helix is developing small, helical-shaped wind turbines as a distributed platform for producing electricity.

High Regard Software (Encinitas, CA)
A private software engineering firm developing RideGrid, a mobile-Internet-based service that enables rider and driver to evaluate the safety, convenience, and value of ride sharing.

HR BioPetroleum (San Diego, CA)
HR BioPetroleum, with operations in Hawaii and San Diego, is a renewable energy company developing marine microalgae to both help absorb industrial emissions of carbon dioxide and produce biofuel feedstocks.

ISE (Poway, CA)
With funding from Siemens Venture Capital and others, ISE develops hybrid-electric drive systems and components for municipal buses.

JMAR (San Diego, CA)
JMAR has developed a patented multi-angle, light-scattering technology for identifying and warning of the presence of waterborne pathogens in drinking water.

Kai BioEnergy (Del Mar, CA)
An alternative biofuel company with operations in Del Mar, CA, and Hawaii, Kai BioEnergy is developing technologies to produce biodiesel from algae.

Kairos Scientific (San Diego, CA)
Kairos provides contract research and development services that use optical design, software engineering, and molecular genetics for specialized customers in biopharmaceutical, cleantech, and chemical industries.

Kent BioEnergy (San Diego, CA)
Kent is developing proprietary technologies that use algae in biofuel production, water pollution remediation, carbon dioxide absorption, landfill management, and the production of livestock feed additives.

Knight & Carver (National City, CA)
Knight & Carver was named boatyard of the year in 2007 by the American Boat Builders & Repairers Association. But with a $12.5 million private equity investment in 2007, Knight & Carver launched a wind group based on its development of a new blade design for wind turbines in partnership with Sandia National Laboratories. The Sweep Twist Adaptive Rotor, or STAR blade, is designed to produce more electricity from a given wind turbine without increasing wear and tear on the machine.

Kyocera Solar (San Diego, CA)
Kyocera Solar, operated by the North American headquarters of the Japanese industrial giant, is one of the world’s largest producers and suppliers of solar energy products.

L3 Communications/Pulse Sciences (San Diego, CA)
A San Diego-based unit of New York’s L-3 Communications, PS provides pulsed power products and services, as well as ultracapacitors, an energy storage device ideally suited for burst power applications in hybrid electric vehicles and other uses.

L3 Research (San Diego, CA)
This company, which is not affiliated with L3 Communications, develops electric and hybrid drives and controls for manned and unmanned vehicles.

Lightwave Photonics (Encinitas, CA)
An early stage company developing chip-based green, blue, and white LEDs that produce brighter light at a lower cost.

Maxwell Technologies (San Diego, CA)
Maxwell is a leading U.S. manufacturer of ultracapacitors, energy storage devices designed for use in power-generating windmills, power systems, and hybrid electric vehicles.

Networkfleet (San Diego, CA)
A Hughes Telematics subsidiary that provides wireless fleet management services, resulting in reduced overall fuel consumption, maintenance expenses, and vehicle emissions.

New Leaf Biofuel (San Diego, CA)
This startup collects waste vegetable oil from restaurants and other organizations and turns it into biodiesel.

Noble Environmental Technologies (San Diego, CA)
Provides ECOR lightweight, 3D molded panel products manufactured from 100-percent recycled materials, including cardboard, newspapers, and agricultural fibers.

Omnitek (San Marcos, CA)
This company creates advanced measurement technology for exhaust emission control technologies.

Pearson Fuels (San Diego, CA)
An alternative fuel distributor provides ethanol-based fuels to specially equipped service stations throughout California.

Phyre Technologies (El Cajon, CA)
Phyre has developed proprietary technologies to improve the safety of fuel tanks on commercial aircraft with lighter, smaller, and environmentally friendly systems for generating inert gas and displacing oxygen.

PowerGenix (San Diego, CA)
This company develops next-generation nickel-zinc (NiZn) batteries that are lightweight and rechargeable, and contain no toxic materials, are easily recyclable, and non-combustible.

Pyron Solar (San Diego, CA)
Founded in 2004, Pryon has developed a patented photovoltaic optics system that generates 90 kilowatt peak energy with high-efficiency conversion of sunlight into electricity.

Quanlight (San Diego, CA)
Quanlight is a venture-backed company that has created high-power yellow-amber-red LED light technology.

Reaction Design (San Diego, CA)
Reaction has developed advanced software and databases to model gas-phase chemistry, computational fluid dynamics, combustion reactions, and combustion emissions for the transportation and energy sectors.

Riverside Technologies (San Diego, CA)
Riverside’s proprietary process uses scrap tires as the primary raw material in the production of SynBlack (recycled carbon black), oil, gas, and steel.

SAIC (San Diego, CA)
A diversified government contractor with more than 45,000 employees worldwide, Science Applications International Corp. specializes in contract engineering and research and development across a variety of industries, including pollution control, environmental remediation, and energy.

Sapphire Energy (San Diego, CA)
Sapphire is developing technologies to produce jet fuel and other biofuels from algae. Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment, Arch Venture Partners, Venrock, and Wellcome Trust provided $100 million in venture funding to Sapphire in September.

Seacoast Sciences (Carlsbad, CA)
Founded in 2003, Seacoast has developed chemical microsensor systems and related products based on patented microelectrical mechanical systems technologies and chemi-selective polymers licensed from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory.

SG Biofuels (San Diego, CA)
SG Biofuels specializes in cultivating and processing Jatropha, a hardy shrub found throughout Latin America, to produce biodiesel, energy, and bioplastics.

SolASE (San Diego, CA)
Founded in 2006 by four optics and photonics students at UC San Diego, SolASE is commercializing novel solar cell technologies for use with portable consumer electronics and other equipment.

Solatube International (Vista, CA)
Using proprietary technology, materials, and design, Solatube’s tubular skylights provide natural sunlight to interior spaces. The company was founded in Australia and established its worldwide headquarters in the San Diego area during a 1998 corporate restructuring.

Sunlight Direct (San Diego, CA)
Founded in 2004, Sunlight Direct has developed a proprietary system that tracks and concentrates solar energy for distributed power generation and efficient lighting.

Sustainable Green Technologies (Escondido, CA)
Sustainable Green Technologies, also known as SGT, is creating technology to use hydrogen as an alternative fuel. The company has four patents pending that cover commercial bio-hydrogen generation from waste-streams and enhanced green algal oil production.

Synthetic Genomics (San Diego, CA)
The startup founded in 2005 by human genome pioneer J. Craig Venter and Nobel laureate Hamilton Smith plans to genetically engineer new types of cells with desired properties for the production of bioenergy or substitutes for petrochemicals.

Tour Engine (San Diego, CA)
Tour Engine has developed a split-cycle design for an internal combustion engine that integrates temperature differential to operate more efficiently.

Trex Enterprises (San Diego, CA)
A technology incubator and government research contractor, Trex specializes in developing high-temperature advanced materials for possible use in alternative energy applications.

Ultraviolet Sciences (San Diego, CA)
This company founded in 2002 has developed proprietary water purification systems that use a compact and energy-efficient ultraviolet disinfection treatment systems for treating drinking water.

Verari Systems (San Diego, CA)
A data center equipment provider that has created a “green data center” concept that maximizes energy efficiency and reduces electricity costs by consolidating computing racks into a self-contained system.

Waterless (Vista, CA)
Waterless has developed proprietary “no-flush” urinals that consume no water, with a single urinal saving as much as 45,000 gallons of water a year.

YBR Solar (San Diego, CA)
This spinout from San Diego-based Quanlight is working to develop an unorthodox design for a power-generating solar cell that is 50 percent more efficient at converting sunlight to electricity than conventional solar technology.

ZuumCraft (San Diego, CA)
This company offers energy-efficient transportation—a three-wheel electric scooter powered by lithium batteries.

[Xconomy San Diego Editor Bruce V. Bigelow contributed to this report]

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