Ten Start-ups Vie for Clean Tech Energy Prizes

Ten start-up companies have made a compelling case to energy venture capitalists, CEOs, and industry experts that they have the right stuff to build new clean energy tech companies — helping to create one of the fastest growing industry clusters in Massachusetts.

But winning the semifinals in the 2006 Ignite Clean Energy competition wasn’t easy, as each team had to survive two elimination rounds against almost 40 other start-ups. Now these teams are working to hone their business presentation skills for the final competitive round on May 9 at the MIT State Center, 4:30 – 9:30 pm (open to the public and free of charge). The event organizers at the Energy Special Interest Group (ESIG) of the MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge have matched the teams with industry mentors to help these new entrepreneurs who are developing innovative clean energy technologies, which include ways to reduce development costs for offshore wind farms, improve the efficiency of producing biofuels from agricultural wastes and cut the costs for harvesting solar energy. “These fledgling businesses all offer solutions to our country’s need for energy independence and a clean, healthy environment,” said Dr. Linda Plano, Chair of the Ignite Clean Energy Competition and Associate Director of the Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center. “We expect these teams to play a significant role in building a thriving clean energy industry in the Commonwealth.” The finalists are: BiOctane, Worcester, MA, which proposes to design and develop a biodiesel and ethanol refinery. The two-step refining process, using waste oil and waste glycerol coupled with methanol recovery, can produce biodiesel, ethanol and hydrogen under one roof at a lower cost. BiOctane’s team, comprising primarily Worcester Polytechnic Institute students, includes Ormar Pinango, Henry Loud, Rachel Robillard and Sean Scheriff. Mentors: Jeff Bentley, CEO CellTech Power LLC; Austin Scee and Advanced Technology Ventures. Feed Resource Recovery, Wellesley, MA, will collect food and other organic wastes from farms, restaurants and supermarkets, and use an anaerobic digester to convert the waste to dry and liquid fertilizer for sale to landscapers and agribusiness, and biomethane gas for sale to electricity suppliers. Feed Resource Recovery is a Babson College student team with Shane Eten and John Gingrich. Mentor: Jeff Behrens, former CEO, Telluride Group. Hydrophen, Cambridge, MA, a Harvard University team, proposes to use a nano-membrane technology for oxygen permeation to produce high-purity hydrogen from water, with increased efficiency and lower cost due to its high production rate per surface area. The Hydrophen team includes Shriram Ramanathan, Nico Batrel, and Annamalai Karthikeyan. Mentor: Charles Eesley, Entrepreneurship PhD Candidate, MIT. NatEl, Grapevine, TX and Cambridge, MA, converts underutilized low-head dams for hydropower generation with its Linear HydroEngine technology, at lower cost than high-head dams, and it is more fish-friendly. NatEl includes Abe Schneider, Libby Wayman, and Chris Rivest. Mentors: Lucinda Seigel, Communications Solutions; Jeff Seul, attorney. Oceanwind Technology LLC, Medford, MA, has developed technology for offshore wind farms using a floating platform design that eliminates onsite construction costs, reduces sea-bed disturbance and allows for deep-sea deployment away from scenic areas. The platform design minimizes the risks from heave and roll movement caused by extreme wave and wind conditions. Team Members include Yuki Yamamoto, General Partner, Mystic River Partners; Jack Ringelberg, President, JMS Naval Architects Salvage Engineers; Ted Colburn, Chairman, Ocean Technology Foundation; Mark Ranalli, CEO, Helium Exchange; Samuel Tolkoff, Foster-Miller; and Stephen Houghton, Student, JFK School (Harvard) and Stanford Business School, MPP/ MBA joint-degree candidate. Phototaxis Solar, Cambridge, MA, will build solar-panel covered roofs over existing parking lots, targeting environmentally conscious businesses first, saving them the cost of construction and maintenance. Phototaxis will then sell the business the “green” electricity, lease the covered “GreenSpot” parking spaces and sell advertising space on the roofing. The MIT student team members include Nolan Browne, Lars R. Applequist, Mark Bohm, Chung-yi Chiang, Alissa Jones, Jacqueline Tio. Mentor: Eric Graham, financial advisor. Radiant Apparatus, Fairfax, VA and Cambridge, MA, develops low-cost, multi-function solar energy-harnessing systems that are highly portable and can be used for disaster relief as well as for education and recreation. Radiant’s Inflatable Multi-tool uses solar concentrating for heating and cooking, purifying and pasteurizing, rainwater collection, water desalination, sterilizing medical equipment, electricity generation and communications power. Team includes John R. Essig, Silpa Kaza, Daniel Sherizen, Gerthy Lahens. Mentors: David Sossen, ADL Enterprises; Ross Trimbly, Davelin Partners. Stellaris Corporation’s solar technology uses passive optics, eliminating the need for direct sunlight. By capturing more solar energy with two-thirds less photovoltaic material, Stellaris can reduce traditional manufacturing cost by at least 40%. Their technology also allows transparent design that can be used in windows and tiles and installed via conventional construction techniques. Team includes Jim Paull, President/co-founder; Lee Johnson, COO/co-founder and Tom Ward, VP, Sales and Marketing. Synergetic Power Systems proposes installing parabolic concentrated solar collector systems on large flat-roofed buildings to power their HVAC systems, and provide backup and peak demand power. The MIT student team includes Amy Mueller, Matthew Orosz, Sorin Grama, Ignacio Aquirre, Perry Hung and Elizabeth Wayman. Mentor: Mark Wolf. The Eagle Axis is a Boston College team capitalizing on its nano-antenna and nano-coax invention for ultra high-efficiency solar cells. Their technology increases the efficiency of solar systems from a current high of 12% to a potential of 35-70% efficiency. Nanoscale allows for flexible material, improving aesthetics and applicability. Team includes Kris Kempa, Mike Naughton, Zhifeng Ren, Jakub Rybczynski, Yang Wang, Yun Peng. Mentors: Chris Hobson, SVP Operations, eCredit and Bud Enright, Vice President of Technology Business Development, HP, retired.
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