It's red hot in the green tech world

AlwaysOn has just released the names of its first GoingGreen 100. AlwaysOn describes these as the "hottest private companies in greentech.
Written by Harry Fuller, Contributor

AlwaysOn has just released the names of its first GoingGreen 100. AlwaysOn describes these as the "hottest private companies in greentech."

It was clear that green lighting green tech is getting easier. This event was hosted by KPMG at their Silicon Valley offices. Two clear signals: expect some of these guys to make enough money to need accountants, and VCs in the Valley are putting up some cash. The host exec from KPMG made his interest clear by emphaszing that green tech is now the third most popular sector for VC money, getting 15% of VC investments last year and probably much more in 2007. Only old-fashioned (digital) tech and biotech still get more VC dollars in America. I talked to one visitor from a tech company in Finland. (You get one guess.) He was impressed with "the energy in this region for green tech." The energy he was feeling is distinctly renewable, it only requires the fed keeping printing money.

The GoingGreen 1OO winners range alphabetically from A123 Systems (evergy storage) through LanzaTech (New Zealand waster management firm) to ZENN Motors (electric cars). The list groups the winners into eight broad categories including: solar, transport, wind, biofuel and nanotech. Another way to look at the winners: they range from firms already selling to consumers, to ones still deep in product r&d.

One of the latter is Mendel Biotechnology. Their man tells me they are on a slow build. One investor: a little oil company over in Europe, BP. They aren't looking for money, but Mendel is looking for answers.

What easy-to-grow plants can produce the most biomass to turn into fuel? The U.S. government lab is working on the conversion process, going from green plants to fuel. Meanwhile the Man from Mendel says they're working on new plant strains and methods to grow that needed biomass efficiently. Their current favorite is an Asian plant called miscanthus. It's a perennial that just keeps on giving, doesn't need plowing or weeding or fertilizers or heavy farming methods. That eliminates a lot of the energy use that crops like, say, corn need. He knows they're not alone in the search. Europeans are working on miscanthus as well.

Mendel's also working with my fav, switchgrass. The new crops have a long way to go. Meanwhile, it seems the best current green crop for fuel: Brazil's sugar cane fields. And, according to Mendel's analysis, those folks at the goverment lab in Colorado need to come up with a better end fuel than ethanol, perhaps we'll be using bio-butynal. And by the time the lab guys crack the processing, the Mendelians hope to be waiting with huge biomass crops of miscanthus, or maybe something even better.

I also talked to the American biz dev guy for a British company. They're already selling portable solar-powered rechargers for your mobile device(s). That little three-fingered gismo in the pic is their first Solio. It looks like a cellphone somebody sliced into layers. CNET gave it an 8 in the its review.

Solio is made in China and the company's sold eighteen a half million units worldwide. They're working on plans to couple one of their devices with a low wattage LED to bring non-polluting light to parts of ther world with no electricity, places still burning kerosene or buffalo dung. The Solio man says they're aiming for some new products and other announcements this fall. Bring you the deets when we get 'em.

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