The Washington Cleantech Cluster: The A-to-Z List of Alternative Energy Players

Xconomy Seattle — 

(Updated) The venture capitalist John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers said three years ago that “greentech could be the largest economic opportunity of the 21st century.” Since then, voters in the U.S. have elected a President and Congress that have vowed to break the country’s addiction to oil. So here in the Northwest, a place with environmental awareness and entrepreneurial spirit, who will grab this historic opportunity?

We have been thinking a lot about this question as we prepare for the Xconomy energy event on March 26. But it has been hard to find a good, complete list of who’s who in cleantech across the Northwest—Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia. So we made one of our own.

We defined the alternative energy industry broadly, including innovative developers of biofuels, solar power, wind, and energy storage, as well as technologies for hybrid vehicles and smart-grid applications and software for energy efficiency and conservation. We included a few venture capital firms that have a distinct focus on cleantech, as well as an occasional nonprofit. We left out other environmentally-themed businesses like green builders, architects, consultants, recyclers, makers of biodegradable plastics, or people who install or sell energy-related products like solar panels.

This list shows that unlike the computing industry, which gave rise to Silicon Valley as a global epicenter, the clean energy industry has so many different elements that no single city or region will become the capital for cleantech, says Ron Pernick, co-founder of Portland, OR-based consulting firm Clean Edge. “The clean energy sector is arising from dozens of nodes around the world,” he says. Still, his firm sees big opportunities in the Northwest in five main categories, which you can read more about here.

We found 83 companies aiming to take a leading role—some serious, some pretty quirky—in the move toward clean energy in Washington state alone. This alphabetical list isn’t comprehensive, and will fast be out of date, so if you know of any companies we missed, or who are just getting started, please shoot us a note at [email protected] This week, we will also catalog Oregon’s cleantech cluster, and provide a rundown from British Columbia, so stay tuned.

Before diving in, I need to say thanks to all the sources who helped me put this list together. The Washington state Department of Community Trade and Economic Development; the Washington Clean Technology Alliance; Rick LeFaivre of OVP Venture Partners; Eric Gertsman of the University of Washington; Jane Shaw of the Canadian Consulate’s office in Seattle; Pernick of Clean Edge; Gary Spanner of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, WA; and Kim Zentz of SIRTI in Spokane, WA.

3Tier Group (Seattle). This company raised $10 million in venture capital in December to help developers and financiers identify the best places in the world to build renewable energy facilities.

Advantage IQ (Spokane). The company manages energy usage and greenhouse gas data on the Internet so companies can better conserve.

AFS Trinity Power (Medina, WA). This company says it has developed patent-pending technology to make plug-in electric hybrid cars get 150 miles a gallon, or go 40 miles in all-electric mode.

Alerton (Redmond). This company, part of Honeywell International’s Automation and Controls Group, says it was the first to pioneer ways to help building owners automatically control heating and cooling.

Alternative Energy Corp. (Lynnwood). This startup biodiesel maker got launched in 2008.

AltaRock Energy (Seattle). This company raised $26 million in August from Vulcan Capital and Google, among others, to create geothermal energy reservoirs rather than rely on having to discover natural heat-energy sources.

Apollo Sensor Technology (Kennewick). This division of Apollo Inc. is developing miniature hydrogen gas sensors that can be used for fuel, among other applications.

Arch Venture Partners (Seattle). This venture capital firm invests in alternative energy production, most notably San Diego-based Sapphire Energy, a developer of algae-based biofuels.

Areva T&D (Bellevue). This French firm is a global leader in energy transmission and distribution, and has operations in the Northwest. It is a major player in smart-grid technologies and services. (Editor’s Note: This entry was added March 5)

Arzeda (Seattle). This spinout from the University of Washington lab of biochemist David Baker we profiled recently has its sights on making designer enzymes that could someday make cellulosic biofuels feasible.

Avion Car Company (Bellingham, WA). This company developed a 100 mile-a-gallon sports car more than two decades ago, but found the market had no interest at that time. Now it’s coming back for a limited production run.

AXI (Seattle). The company has its origins in research by UW biologist Rose Ann Cattolico. It aims to make commercially feasible strains of algae for fuel production.

Baard Energy (Vancouver, WA). This company develops, builds, and operates alternative energy facilities for ethanol, biopolygen, biomass to liquids, and coal biomass to liquids.

Battelle Pacific Northwest Division (Richland, WA). This federally-funded national lab is a regional powerhouse of energy research with 4,200 employees and an $850 million annual budget.

Bio Algene (Seattle area). This stealthy company is working on algae-based biofuels. It says it has three prototype operating sites in Washington, and grants from the Department of Energy, although its website doesn’t say who runs the company or where its sites are.

Bio Architecture Lab (Seattle). This company spun out of the University of Washington lab of David Baker, and aims to make computer-designed enzymes to make specialty chemicals from renewable sources instead of the usual petrochemicals. It raised $1.5 million from XSeed Capital in March. (Updated: An earlier version of this item said the company raised money from Mohr Davidow Ventures, citing data from VentureDeal. The money actually came from XSeed Capital, which is loosely related to Mohr Davidow, says CEO Nikesh Parekh. He added some specifics to the company’s plans, saying it is designing enzymes to help engineer microbes that convert novel biomass sources into biofuels and specialty chemicals, which cost half as much as products made from Brazilian sugarcane, currently the cheapest source of sugar in the world.)

BioGas Energy (Seattle). The company makes anaerobic digesters that convert manure from farm animals into methane gas for fuel.

Bionavitas (Redmond). This biofuels company we profiled recently has emerged from stealth mode, explaining that it is developing a way to deliver light in a more efficient way so that algae can grow in three feet of water, instead of 3-5 centimeters, thereby boosting energy yields.

Blue Marble Energy (Seattle). This company aims to turn algae and other cellulosic biomass into bio-chemicals and natural gas. Newly minted U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke serves as an adviser.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes. The Seattle-based division of the aerospace giant is investigating how to make algae into a renewable source of jet fuel. Billy Glover spearheads the effort as managing director of environmental strategy, and he has also gotten involved in the Washington Clean Technology Alliance, as well as a movement to establish new energy research centers of excellence around the country, as I described in this story.

Cascadia Capital (Seattle). Led by CEO Michael Butler (an Xconomist), this investment bank aims to find promising cleantech deals in the Northwest and help coordinate a regional strategy to support the industry, as Greg described last month in this feature story.

Catchlight Energy (Federal Way, WA). This joint venture of Weyerhaeuser and Chevron was formed in April 2007 to develop technology to convert cellulose-based biomass into low-carbon biofuels.

Clean Power Research (Kirkland and Napa, CA). This company writes software for solar power and other clean energy industries, as Rachel Tompa described for Xconomy in this feature story in January.

Climate Solutions (Olympia, WA). This nonprofit organization, with offices in Seattle, Olympia, and Portland, OR, aims to fight global warming. (It is a sponsor of Xconomy’s March 26 cleantech event at K&L Gates.)

Columbia Energy Partners (Vancouver, WA). This company develops wind power, and is constructing what it calls a 2 Megawatt solar power generation facility from conventional photovoltaics. It’s the largest solar project in Oregon, based near Arlington, the company says.

Commuter Cars (Spokane). This company makes the Tango, an electric car for commuting that it says has an 80-mile range.

EnerG2 (Seattle). This UW spinout company is developing novel materials to help make it more efficient to store energy from hydrogen, solar cells, and even make “ultracapacitors.” Greg broke the story in November that this company raised $8.5 million from OVP Venture Partners and Firelake Capital Management.

Environmental Energy & Engineering (Olympia, WA). This company, known as E3, has done research and development for the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. It has anaerobic digestion technology to convert manure from farm animals to biogas.

Flower Power (Auburn, WA). This company makes biodiesel fuels from sunflower oil.

Frybrid (Seattle). This company, which has a quirky website that traces the history of diesel to 1673, makes equipment to convert diesel engines to run on vegetable oil.

General Biodiesel (Seattle). This company aims to turn waste cooking oil and animal fat into feedstock for biodiesel.

Genesis Fueltech (Spokane). This company aims to commercialize hydrogen fuel cell technology.

Gen-X Energy (Burbank, WA). This Tri-Cities-area company aims to produce biodiesel. It said it planned to get animal oils from a nearby Tyson Foods rendering plant in this statement.

Global Smart Energy (Redmond). This is the consulting firm led by Xconomist Jesse Berst that provides market research into the energy business and “electricity economy.”

Green Car Company (Bellevue, WA). This company markets all sorts of environmentally-friendly modes of transport, from electric-assist bikes to Toyota Prius plug-in hybrids.

Greenwood Technologies (Bellevue, WA). This firm makes alternative-fuel technologies for clean, renewable heating. (Editor’s Note: This entry was added March 8)

HydroVolts (Seattle). This company says it aims to develop renewable energy from canals, waterways, streams, and ocean currents.

Imperium Renewables (Seattle). This once high-flying maker of biodiesel, which built a 100 million-gallon-a-year biodiesel refinery in Grays Harbor, WA, has fallen on financial hard times and has tried to cut a lower profile lately.

Infinia (Kennewick, WA). This company makes electricity generators that run on solar power and biomass. Noted Silicon Valley venture capitalist Vinod Khosla is an investor.

Inland Empire Oilseeds (Odessa, WA). The company crushes oilseeds to produce biodiesel.

InnovaTek (Richland, WA). This company is a developer of hydrogen fuel cell technology.

Integrated Fuel Technologies (Kirkland, WA). This company, backed by Vancouver, BC-based Yaletown Venture Partners, is developing new technology to reduce the emissions and boost fuel efficiency of diesel engines without sacrificing performance. The company has a contract with the Argonne National Laboratory.

Intellectual Ventures (Bellevue). This investment and invention firm has designed a new kind of nuclear reactor that requires much less enriched fuel than conventional reactors. (Editor’s Note: This entry was added March 6)

Inventure (Seattle). This company operates a prototype algae fuel processing plant that it says is currently making biodiesel and ethanol.

Itron (Liberty Lake, WA). This global smart-grid company (NASDAQ: ITRI) makes tools to gather information on energy usage, and software to manage it.

JX Crystals (Issaquah, WA). This spinoff from Boeing is aiming to improve the efficiency of solar cells.

MagnaDrive (Bellevue, WA). This company develops technology to make industrial pumps, fans, and manufacturing equipment more energy-efficient.

Microplanet (Seattle). This company, led by Bruce Lisanti, has technology that allows residential and business customers to manage their incoming power voltage, reducing their energy consumption by 5-12 percent.

Microsoft (Redmond). The software giant is thinking hard about how to reduce the environmental impact of information technology, and how IT can help the environment. Greg recently interviewed Mark Aggar, director of environmental technology strategy, about what the company specifically has in mind.

MountainLogic (Seattle and Portland, OR). This company has developed patent-pending technology to integrate lights, thermostats, and occupancy sensors for every room in a home. The sensors are made to anticipate each individual’s energy and comfort needs during all seasons of the year.

Neah Power Systems (Bothell, WA). This company is developing fuel cell technology to power portable electronic devices for the military, first responders, and other markets.

New Earth Renewable Energy (Seattle). This company aspires to develop inexpensive and reliable biomass fuels that can be burned with coal, or can replace coal altogether.

Northwest Energy Angels (Seattle). This angel investor network aims to support local energy entrepreneurs.

Optimum Energy (Seattle). This company develops networked software and systems to reduce energy consumption in commercial buildings.

Outback Power Systems (Arlington, WA). The company makes power conversion products that turn solar, wind, and hydro into mobile and backup power systems.

OVP Venture Partners (Kirkland). This venture fund invests in Northwest cleantech companies like EnerG2, among other areas.

Paccar (Bellevue, WA). The trucking giant has a goal of boosting fuel efficiency by 30 percent with hybrid power on medium-duty trucks.

Pacific Coast Canola (Seattle). This company says it is producing a 300-million-pound-per-year canola oil processing plant in Warden, WA.

Plas2Fuel (Kelso, WA). This company converts mixed-waste plastics that would go into landfills into synthetic crude oil and other petrochemical products.

Powerit Solutions (Seattle). This company allows business customers to control their energy usage online.

Principle Power (Seattle). This company is developing a method so that wind turbines can float on ocean waves in deeper coastal waters, as Greg described yesterday in this feature story.

Prometheus Energy (Mercer Island, WA). This company uses proprietary technology to take methane gas from cow manure and municipal landfills and turn it into natural gas for fuel.

Propel Biofuels (Sacramento, CA and Seattle). This company sells biodiesel and E85 ethanol blends, and uses IT to help customers keep track of how much they are reducing their carbon footprint.

Puget Energy (Bellevue, WA). The state’s largest utility is investing $100 million in a wind farm near Ellensburg, called Wild Horse, and is scouting new locations for wind farms in southeastern Washington, according to this story by former Seattle Times reporter Angel Gonzalez.

Ramgen Power Systems (Bellevue, WA). This company is attempting to develop carbon dioxide capture and storage systems based on compression principles learned from studying supersonic jet engines.

REC Silicon (Moses Lake, WA). This 400-acre site owned by Norway-based REC Group, is being transformed by a $1.2 billion investment that could enable it to become the world’s dominant polysilicon producer, ushering in more efficient solar power, according to this story by Bert Caldwell of The Spokesman-Review in Spokane.

Reklaim Technologies (Bellevue, WA). This company has technology to recover oil, carbon, and steel from discarded tires. The carbon can be used to produce printer inks, plastics and rubber products. The steel can be re-used in cans, cars and construction, the company says. Reklaim’s first site is located in Boardman, OR.

ReliOn (Spokane). This company says it is the world leader in developing and making adjustable, cartridge-based proton exchange membrane fuel cell technology.

Ridgeline Energy (Seattle). This company identifies, acquires, and develops wind energy projects.

Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (Pullman, WA). This company, with more than 1,300 employees, develops and makes products for monitoring and controlling electric power systems.

Solarcasters (Redmond). This company calls itself “the weathermen for the utility-scale solar power industry.” It says it can predict when and where clouds will appear, how thick they will be, and how much they will interfere with the production of electricity at solar power plants.

Soluxra (Seattle). This University of Washington spinout company, built on technology from materials science professor Alex Jen, is working to capture solar energy on thin polymer film rather than expensive silicon, as Rachel Tompa explained in this Xconomy scoop last month.

Sound Refining (Tacoma). This refiner now makes blends of biodiesel and ethanol.

Spokane County Biodiesel (Spokane Valley, WA). This company makes biodiesel from vegetable oil.

Spraycool (Liberty Lake, WA). This company supplies cooling technology to the military, as well as to companies that run data centers.

Targeted Growth (Seattle). This spinout from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center has developed technology based on cell division to improve yields of crops like camelina for biofuel. (It also has its eye on making more efficient small grain cereals, which could make it into your breakfast bowl, as I wrote in this Xconomy exclusive in September.)

UCONS (Kirkland). This company develops plans to conserve energy and water for big utilities as well as residential customers.

U.S. Ethanol (Vancouver,WA). This company said in September that the global credit crunch has slowed it down, although it was continuing to attempt to build an ethanol production site in Longview,WA.

V2Green (Seattle). This company makes software and other technologies to integrate plug-in vehicles with the electric grid. It was acquired by Arlington, VA-based Gridpoint in September for an undisclosed sum.

Verdiem (Seattle). This company led by IT entrepreneur Jeremy Jaech, the co-founder of Aldus and Visio (and an Xconomist), is developing software to monitor energy consumption of computers and turn them off when they’re not being used. Jaech will have more to say about it at the Xconomy Forum on March 26 in Seattle.

Vu1 (Seattle). This company, pronounced like View One, is led by former Russell Investments executive David Grieger. It aims to develop a new type of light bulb that has the energy efficiency of a fluorescent bulb without containing mercury that can contaminate landfills. In late 2007, it began investing in high-volume manufacturing capacity. (Editor’s Note: We added Vu1 to the list March 5.)

Washington Biodiesel (Seattle). This company, led by Joel Horn and Kevin Raymond, who were part of the now-defunct Seattle Monorail Project, aims to grow biodiesel feedstock in the town of Warden in Grant County.

Whole Energy (Bellingham, WA). This company is a biodiesel supplier with a distribution center in Anacortes, WA.