Top Ten Cleantech Cities in the United States

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There are numerous cities across the United States which can be considered “cleantech capitals.” With a large array of renewable resources, a dedication by businesses and homeowners to become more energy efficient, and a large hub for research and development, a lot can be accomplished when it comes to creating new, efficient and sustainable clean technologies. There are many factors that make up a “capital for cleantech,” and although there are more than ten cities around the nation that are involved in clean technologies, here are ten of the top cities.

1) Boston, Massachusetts. Boston is said to enjoy some of the most supportive policies in the United States for energy efficiency and renewable energy. After California, Boston is second in clean technology venture capital investments. With an environment that is ripe for cleantech startups, numerous companies are moving their business to Boston. The MIT Clean Energy Prize is a venture and innovation creation competition that encourages clean energy innovation. Its objective is to provide educational opportunities and supply incentives to ventures demonstrating the clean energy affordability. As well, the development of MIT’s cleantech incubator will provide Boston with more access to cleantech flow, increasing the demands for all future building to be constructed in accordance to LEED standards set up by the U.S. Green Building Council.

2) San Jose, California. San Jose, known as part of California’s famed Silicon Valley, it has been very productive in clean technologies. The city has expanded a number of clean technology investments and because of the research and development institutions in the area, many cleantech companies are coming to make their home in San Jose. San Jose’s, “Long-time leadership in engineering know-how, combined with semi-conductor, nanotechnology and optics R&D gives it a leg up in renewable energy development, particularly in solar energy applications.” San Jose is also home to the Environmental Business Cluster, a non-profit technology commercialization center assisting startup cleantech companies developing goods and services to positively impact the environment, including NuEdison.

3) Austin, Texas. Austin has long been Texas’ hub for solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass power, as well as fuel cell technologies. Its commitment to the environment and sustainability has made it not only a national cleantech player, but a global one as well. Austin is home to some of the largest cleantech companies on a global level, including HelioVolt, Xtreme Power, and Green Mountain Energy. A large research and development hub, the University of Texas at Austin has created several research expenditures to elevate research into energy efficiency and renewable energy. This includes a project by the College of Natural Sciences to create biofuel from blue-green algae and hybrid-electric automobile programs developed by The Center for Electromechanics. There is also the Clean Energy Incubator, which provides facilities and resources to turn renewable energy ideas into working projects.

4) San Francisco, California. California is one of the top cleantech nations in the United States and it is cities like San Francisco that makes it happen. Currently, San Francisco is well on its way to becoming the first city to be completely run by renewable energy by the year 2020. With projects like Sunset Reservoir Solar Project, which is the largest municipal solar facility in the state and a new $250,000 grant to increase renewable energy capabilities to reach 2020 goal, it is easy to see how quickly it will happen. San Francisco is also home to a number of cleantech investment firms that assist in creating new cleantech businesses. For example, there is The Energy Foundation, an organization that partners donors to assist in solving the energy problem around the globe. Funding is provided to businesses that advance renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

5) Seattle, Washington. Seattle has been leaving its mark in cleantech society by increasing the need for green standards. The Green Building Sustainable Communities Program, for example, creates city projects that meet sustainable outcomes. Tax breaks and loans are provided to businesses and residences that utilize green practices. Seattle has been a leader in using their garbage to get electricity. They have invested into electricity from garbage landfills. Seattle also houses the top Green Fleet Plan in the nation, which works toward the adoption of alternative sources of fuel, advanced technology vehicles, fuel reduction policies, and educational programs. But the biggest reason for the impact of cleantech? The participation of the local community. The Seattle community has been instrumental in energy efficiency policies.

6) Chicago, Illinois. Over 20 percent of total power in Chicago is coming from renewable sources. Due to the increase in the need for renewable energy and energy efficiency, Chicago has been able to create numerous job opportunities while, at the same time, increasing solar power and saving on CO2 emissions. A number of large cleantech companies call the economic capital of Illinois their home, including G-Tech Energy Inc. and SoCore Energy. Chicago is also becoming one of the major investment locations for international businesses. For example, 2010 provided Chicago with a deal with China’s Goldwind to build a branch there for wind-power solutions. Chicago also has a number of green initiatives, including the Chicago Green Office Challenge, “Smart Grid Innovation” project, and Chicago is the home of the U.S. branch of the Green Building Council.

7) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Want to visit the first sports stadium in the world to be completely run off of on-site renewable energy? Then visit the Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles Stadium. Through the use of wind and solar, provided by SolarBlue, by 2011, the stadium will save more than $50 million in energy costs and greatly reduce the stadium’s carbon footprint. Through an increase in solar energy technologies, renewable energy initiatives, and the development of The Navy Yard into a cleantech hub, Philadelphia is becoming one of the largest cleantech cities in the nation.

8 ) Berkeley, California. Berkeley has become a hub for biofuel technology. For example, in 2007, the creation of a $500 million research effort to create new, renewable energy sources that will decrease the overall impact on the environment. The funding created the Energy Biosciences Institute, which focuses its research on biofuel technology and turning field waste, corn, and algae into fuels that can be used for transportation.

9) Pasadena, California. Pasadena is home to the California Technical Institute of Technology, or Caltech, for short, and has number venture capital investments in the hopes of creating an influential cleantech cluster. Many cleantech startups in Pasadena find assistance from Entretec, a nonprofit organization created through a partnership between Caltech and the city of Pasadena to assist high-tech businesses in the area. Currently, there are many cleantech startups residing in Pasadena, including Energy Innovations Solutions and Methanotech.

10) Washington D.C. As the capital of the United States, it must be a leader and set an example when it comes to cleantech. D.C. is the center for all major U.S. cleantech associations and initiatives, including the American Wind Association, the American Council on Renewable Energy, the Renewable Energy Incentive Program, and the Renewable Energy Policy Project…to name a few. American University, residing in D.C. is the first east coast U.S. University to go 100 percent green. Because D.C. needs to lead by example, they have a number of energy efficient residential programs, including tree planting, disposal of items harmful to the environment, and various programs on instructing energy saving, environmentally friendly techniques.

Article by Shawn Lesser, Co-founder & Managing Partner of Atlanta-based Watershed Capital Group – an investment bank assisting sustainable fund and companies raise capital, perform acquisitions, and in other strategic financial decisions. . He is also a Co-founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association. He writes for various cleantech publications and is known as the David Letterman of Cleantech for his “Top 10″ series. He can be reached at shawn@watershedcapital.com

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

  • Erica

    Hi! Glad to see Pasadena is on the list. It’s a small city with BIG ideas. I do want to mention though that Energy Innovations Solutions and Methanotech (now Gevo, Inc.) no longer reside in Pasadena. But there are other great start-ups incubated at Caltech and/or Entretec here in Pasadena, like the fuel cell company SAFCell (www.safcell.com).

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