Clean Energy Challenge: And Then There Were 10

Despite it being January, the Midwest is heating up – at least in cleantech circles. The Clean Energy Trust (CET) has selected the 10 finalists who will duke it out for a $100,000 grand prize in the early-stage business component of the 2012 Clean Energy Challenge. Independent evaluators picked through more than 100 applications before narrowing down the list to the final teams, and the competition is looking … well, let’s just say we can’t accuse any of these nascent companies of being slackers. And now they’ll spend the next month with successful entrepreneurs and experienced industry experts preparing for their moment of truth in front of the judges on March 1 in Chicago.

As CET’s executive director, Amy Francetic, put it, “These are highly competitive applications that really showcase the innovation coming out of the region’s universities, labs and incubators. The most notable difference this year is the diversity of the new technologies being developed and a big emphasis on biofuels. Many of these businesses are developing prototypes, which makes the Challenge’s ability to put them in front of venture capitalists and investors especially critical to their development.”

Clean Energy Challenge

image via Clean Energy Trust

We’re more than a little excited to see what kind of innovation will be sparked from these teams. And because we know you are too, here’s a little teaser.

Algeon (Indianapolis, Ind.): As you may have deduced from the name, Algeon has developed a unique “vertical vineyard” system to produce biofuel from micro-algae. The company’s approach aims to combat the food-impact issues that come with producing biomass from soy or corn, while doing so in large enough quantities to satisfy demand.

Algal Scientific (Plymouth, Mich.): This company brings recycling to our oh-so-valuable resource, water. Algal Scientific designed treatment plants that use algae (the new organism of choice) to remove nutrient pollutants like nitrogen and phosphorus from wastewater. In turn, producing both clean water and algae biomass that can be used for biofuels, bioplastics and fertilizer.

Dioxide Materials (Champaign, Ill.): Always seeking to lower our carbon footprint, Dioxide Materials developed CO2 sensors that monitor air quality so HVAC systems can keep ventilation running only when needed, saving energy. But the company doesn’t stop there. It also created a Dual Electrocat (DueElCat) process powered by solar energy that converts carbon dioxide and water into a synthesis gas which is then refined back into gasoline.

Freiezo (St. Louis, Mo.): We’ll call it urbanization of the wind farm. Freiezo designed its Wind Joule vertical axis wind turbine with a modular, silent design that makes it possible to build mini-farms on tall buildings, billboards or water towers.

Angeli Duffin is a Midwest transplant currently living in San Francisco, CA. Kicking off her career doing product design and development with Fair Trade artisans around the world, she then moved on to the editorial side, writing for eBay’s Green Team blog and working as a marketing consultant for social and environmentally minded companies