18 March 2010

"Cleantech Companies to Watch" in Philadelphia

One has an odorous solution to a growing risk...

One takes brown grease and turns it into gold (well, diesel fuel)...

One takes the wait out of recharging Electric Vehicles with the ease we've come to expect with EZPass at toll booths on the turnpike...

These were three of the promising start-ups from the mid-Atlantic region that presented  last night at the Entrepreneurs Forum of Greater Philadelphia's "Cleantech Companies to Watch" program.

Held at the Haub School of Business at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia, the event was part of an ongoing series of entrepreneur-focused programming offered by the organization for its members.

Enersol, which we've been familiar with since last year, has developed a technology to odorize hydrogen gas. Why? Because, as Founder and CEO Patrick Flynn says, "with the growing demand for hydrogen in industrial and commercial applications there is an increased risk of accidental escape and combustion of this highly flammable, odorless gas."

That smell you smell with natural gas that tells you when you have a leak? It's added for the same reason. Without it, sensors would have to detect any leak and, while they are generally reliable, the risk of accidents increases as use of the gas becomes more ubiquitous.

Recently named one of Always On GoingGreen East's Top 50 companies, BlackGold Biofuels is no stranger to readers of this blog. (CEO Emily Landsburg was a part of the first cohort of GoodCompany Ventures last summer and we've continued to work together.)  But what was really impressive is she made this presentation -- and didn't skip a beat -- just six days after giving birth to her first child, Max, who was in the audience.

BlackGold has a patent-pending technology to convert sewer grease -- a multimillion dollar municipal pain in the, well, sewer -- into biodiesel.  Literally turning a liability into an asset. They are installing their first full-scale plant in the city of San Francisco, having beat out two west coast competitors.

Very intriguing was the final presenter, Momentum Dynamics, which is developing a game-changing proprietary technology that solves one of the biggest issues facing the electric vehicle market: it's wired. Not only that, but as inventor and CEO Andrew Daga said, full-cycle charging reduces battery life and takes a minimum of 30 minutes to charge.

So, where once the car provided freedom, electric vehicles as currently being developed require you to plug in, which means you need to be able to do so at home, office, wherever and whenever. But you can't and won't; we all forget to charge our phones, don't we?

Momentum's solution charges automatically, whether parked overnight or for just a few minutes or even while traveling at normal speeds. Think the EZPass lane compared to cash-only toll lanes.  This breakthrough gives EV drivers, as Momentum's tag line says, "Freedom to move."

"The Entrepreneurs Forum hasn't had an opportunity to focus on cleantech in the past," said Dan Ross, the EF's executive director. "But we felt it is an emerging growth area in the region."

The Forum intends to look for other ways to spotlight cleantech entrepreneurs in the Greater Philadelphia area.

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