Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Live "Clean" Capital of the World

Long claimed the live music capital of the world, Austin can add some green to its reputation. SustainLane Government (home of the infamous Unsustainables) recently hailed Austin as the #1 city of cleantech ("clean technology"). Austin is setting the bar for other cities to follow when it comes to creating opportunities for regional sustainable growth boom in response to recent climate change news and energy price instability.

Cleantech is proving a hot investment category with a record $2.9 billion out of $25.5 billion in the United States being committed to cleantech. This trend is only expected to grow. So what is cleantech and why does it matter in our day to day lives?

How people define the category differs, but SustainLane considered the following criteria for its cleantech ranking:
  • Energy generation, management and storage, and energy efficiency, including solar, wind, geothermal, fuels cell and hydrogen
  • Transportation: advanced transportation technologies, biofuels
  • Materials and Green Building: includes advanced materials and engineering approaches, materials recovery
  • Water and air related technologies
As home to the Austin Clean Energy Incubator since 2001, Austin is in a prime position to be incubating some of the latest innovations in cleantech.

With seven companies involved in incubating everything from internet-controlled irrigation to wind and geothermal energy technologies, the group works closely with city-owned utility Austin Energy, according to Assistant Director Kurt Faulhaver.

“Austin Energy has been able to open up the grid as a test bed for CEI, which provides an unparalleled connection to opportunities for small-sized Cleantech start-ups,” said Faulhaver. Austin Energy’s Mark Kapner confirmed the utility has been working with numerous start-ups in alpha and beta field testing ranging from solar to biogas, to small-scale wind energy applications

The CEI is also supported by the Texas Energy Conservation Office and The National Renewable Energy Laboratories’ (NREL) National Alliance of Clean Energy Incubators. “Austin has a robust incubator model--it’s a Cleantech incubator within a (more general technology) incubator,” said Marty Murphy, director of NREL enterprise development programs. One CEI biodiesel start-up, Austin Biofuels, recently “graduated” after being sold to Safe Renewables Corp. in Houston in December.

Other cities making the list include San Jose, Berkeley, Pasadena, and Greater Boston. In a state where bigger means better, Austinites can be proud of the big innovation that clearly extends beyond the music, film, and technology industries. Through continued aggressive commitments to cleantech and energy, this "Best Little City in America" is proving itself a big leader in "green" city development.

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