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

Xconomy Seattle — 

(Updated) British Columbia is bigger in land area than Washington, Oregon, and California combined, but has about one-tenth the total population. Yet pound-for-pound, our neighbor to the north appears to have its share of entrepreneurs thinking hard about energy alternatives that can be profitable while also better protecting the natural environment.

We’ve been on a cleantech kick here at Xconomy this week, having already provided detailed lists of the major alternative energy players in Washington and Oregon. So to round out the picture of the greater Pacific Northwest region, we put together a similar tally for British Columbia.

For those who missed our earlier installments, here’s the basic methodology. We sought to define the cleantech cluster broadly, including innovative developers of biofuels, solar power, wind, and energy storage, as well as smart-grid applications for conservation and efficiency. We left out other environmentally-themed businesses like green builders, architects, consultants, makers of biodegradable plastics, or people who install or sell things like solar panels.

We have identified 41 companies at last count in British Columbia (thanks to four new companies readers told us about), bringing the grand total of cleantech organizations in Washington, Oregon, and BC to 159. If you know of any companies or projects we’ve overlooked, please send us a note at [email protected] And stay tuned for some trends and analysis from these geographic clusters.

Aeolis Wind Power (Victoria, BC). This company (pronounced A-Oh-lis) is developing large-scale wind power generation plants in western Canada.

Altek Power (Kelowna, BC). This company aims to convert manure from farm animals and food waste into biogas for electricity.

Alterna Energy (Prince George, BC). This company converts leftover wood, and other biomass waste into biocarbon for renewable fuel. It was one of 16 cleantech companies in Canada that received funding from the Canadian government this week. (Editor’s Note: This entry was added March 6)

Angstrom Power (North Vancouver, BC). This company has developed what it calls “Micro Hydrogen” technology for handheld electronic devices. It combines a fuel cell with energy storage and microfluidic components.

Azure Dynamics (Vancouver, BC). This company makes hybrid electric shuttle buses and other electric vehicles for commercial delivery. It says its technology has more than 25 million miles of driving experience.

Ballard Power Systems (Burnaby, BC). This company makes hydrogen fuel cells, which can be used as backup power for the telecom industry, as alternatives to diesel generators, and other uses. It is preparing for a “very tough” year, CEO John Sheridan said yesterday on a conference call with analysts.

Canadian Bioenergy (North Vancouver, BC). This company says it is western Canada’s leading supplier of biodiesel. It is building a 225 million liter per year (60 million gallons) canola-based biodiesel factory near Edmonton, Alberta.

Carmanah Technologies (Victoria, BC). This company has technology that matches up solar power systems with light-emitting diode technology. It makes a solar charging kit for RVs and boats, marine lanterns, and traffic beacons and signs.

Chrysalix Energy (Vancouver, BC). This venture firm, founded in 2001, invests in clean energy startups.

Cloudworks Energy (Vancouver, BC). This company makes electricity generators that are submerged in rivers and streams.

Day4 Energy (Burnaby, BC). This company makes solar photovoltaic modules for homes, businesses, and utilities. It laid off about 95 workers in January, mostly at its Burnaby production facility.

Delta Q Technologies (Burnaby, BC). This firm supplies carmakers with battery chargers and power converters for electric and hybrid vehicles.

Delaware Power Systems (Richmond, BC). This company develops and markets battery technology for electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electic cars, and energy storage applications.

dPoint Technologies (Vancouver, BC). This company makes heat and humidity exchangers for fuel cells. The company’s technology uses polymer membranes to make smaller, cheaper and more reliable humidifiers for fuel cells. (Editor’s note: This entry was added March 6)

Exro Technologies (West Vancouver, BC). This company is developing generators that use renewable sources like wind, tides, and streams.

Finavera Renewables (Vancouver, BC). The company is developing wind power projects, and also has technology for capturing energy from ocean waves.

Geotility Systems (Kelowna, BC). This company has been in the heating and cooling business for more than 30 years, but turned its attention to geothermal sources in the early 1990s. It says it can design and install geothermal systems anywhere in western Canada and the Pacific Northwest.

General Fusion (Burnaby, BC). This company is developing a patent-pending concept that it calls “magnetized target fusion.” It hopes to demonstrate the new fusion technique is clean, safe, and cost-effective by 2013.

Global HydroFuel Technologies (Richmond, BC). This company uses aluminum-assisted water splitting technology to produce hydrogen-on-demand, according to this post on Fuel Cell Markets.

Light-Based Technologies (Vancouver, BC). Founded in 2004, this company has technology to improve the efficiency of solid-state lighting. The industry commonly uses digital technology to control light-emitting diodes, but this company says its analog methods are better at managing brightness, color, and temperature, using a fraction of the energy.

Lignol Innovations (Burnaby, BC). This company is developing a process for manufacturing cellulosic ethanol, based on a $100 million investment from General Electric and Repap Enterprises. Lignol initially plans to use wood chips as feedstock, and then other cellulosic feedstocks.

MagPower Systems (White Rock, BC). This company has developed a patented magnesium-air fuel cell, which it says can reduce the amount of hydrogen release that has prevented such systems from becoming commercially viable in the past. It says it is the only company in the world that has solved this problem. The technology is intended to power devices like air compressors, blenders, and refrigerators.

NaiKun Wind Energy (Vancouver, BC). This company is developing a wind power project off the coast of the Queen Charlotte Islands, where it says it will harness some of the strongest and most consistent winds in the world. It should be able to provide electricity to 130,000 homes in British Columbia, the company says.

Nevada Geothermal (Vancouver, BC). This company has four properties in the Western United States, with three in Nevada and one in Oregon. It typically drills 4,000 to 8,000 feet below the surface to tap hot groundwater that turns to steam at the surface, and which can drive turbines to create electricity.

Nexterra Energy (Vancouver, BC). This company raised $3.8 million in August from ARC Financial of Calgary, the largest energy investment firm in Canada. It uses a gasification process to generate heat and power from waste fuels at industrial facilities.

NxtGen (Burnaby, BC). This company, which raised $15.4 million in venture funding last October, makes syngas systems that can retrofit diesel engines to reduce emissions.

Pangaea Ventures (Vancouver, BC). This venture firm raised a second fund worth $32 million (U.S.) back in August. It invests in cleantech companies, including Burnaby, BC-based Switch Materials, which makes more energy-efficient smart window technology.

Plutonic Power (Vancouver, BC). This company is building a 196 Megawatt hydroelectric project that’s expected to be completed in 2010. It uses “run-of-river” technology that doesn’t store water, which it says is more environmentally friendly than traditional hydropower.

Quantum Wind Power (Kelowna, BC). This company develops and manufactures industrial wind turbines.

QuestAir Technologies (Burnaby, BC). This company is a developer and supplier of gas purification systems that companies can use to convert biogas into renewable natural gas to heat homes, create electricity, or power vehicles.

Sea Breeze Power (Vancouver, BC). This company is developing wind power projects, a transmission project to connect the grids of British Columbia and Washington, as well as a hydroelectric plant that uses “run-of-river” technology that doesn’t store water like traditional hydropower.

Sierra Geothermal Power (Vancouver, BC). The company focuses on developing and exploring for geothermal power. It has 90,000 acres in Nevada and California that are estimated to have 500 Megawatts of energy capacity.

SunCentral (Vancouver, BC). This company makes low-cost materials that captures sunlight to help better illuminate inner cores of buildings. Initial research was done at the University of British Columbia, and funding came from 3M, BC Hydro, and the Natural Sciences Engineering and Research Council of Canada. (Editor’s Note: This entry was added March 6.)

SyncWave Systems (Pemberton, BC). The company, in collaboration with scientists and engineers from the University of Victoria and Marinus Power of Houston, TX, says it will be able to efficiently and reliably convert ocean waves into renewable power. It plans to demonstrate the project off the West Coast of Vancouver Island in 2010.

Syntaris Power (Vancouver, BC). This company says it has assembled a portfolio of 42 applications to develop hydropower projects on rivers and creeks in British Columbia with potential to generate 600 Megawatts of energy. (Editor’s Note: This entry was added March 6)

Syntec Biofuel (Vancouver, BC). This company aims to convert waste cellulosic biomass into ethanol and other biofuels. The proprietary technology was developed at the University of British Columbia in 2001.

Switch Materials (Burnaby, BC). This company has raised cash from Vancouver, BC-based GrowthWorks, Ventures West, and Pangaea Ventures. It makes more energy-efficient smart window technology. They darken when exposed to the sun, and rapidly bleach on command when stimulated by electricity. The technology spun out of Simon Fraser University.

VRB Power Systems (Richmond, BC). This company is a developer of energy storage technology that is based on a “vanadium battery” approach.

Westport Innovations (Vancouver, BC). Founded in 1995, this company develops and markets engines that run on compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, hydrogen, and hydrogen-enriched compressed natural gas. Its technologies are designed to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions, particulates, and other greenhouse gases while preserving power and fuel efficiency.

Xantrex (Burnaby, BC). This company, a subsidiary of Schneider Electric, makes products that convert raw electrical power from a central or renewable source into what it calls “high-quality power required by electronic equipment and the electricity grid.”

Yaletown Venture Partners (Vancouver, BC). This company raised $65 million in the initial closing of its second fund, which it anticipated at the time would grow to $100 million over the coming 12 months. The company plans to invest the new money in cleantech opportunities in Canada and the U.S. Its cleantech investments include Burnaby, BC-based NxtGen, and Kirkland, WA-based Integrated Fuel Technologies.

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