I had the opportunity to be out in Denver for the 22nd Annual National Renewable Energy Lab’s (NREL) Growth Forum. As many know, the U.S. has more than half a dozen national labs, some of the best known being Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore, and Sandia. These labs are scattered across the U.S., and each often has a specific focus (nuclear research for instance is what has kept the National Labs in the public eye most often).
Given the Obama Administration’s commitment to renewable energy and innovation, it was an upbeat gathering. The attendee list was well-balanced between entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and academics. Geographically, the majority of attendees either hailed from the Colorado area (with Boulder as the epicenter for cleantech in CO despite the NREL lab being located in Golden, CO), the West Coast (Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and venture investors), and New England (Boston-skewed).
What was surprising is how small the renewable energy community truly is. It’s still a very close knit group. And the community tends to shift from one location to another to pursue the next opportunity to contribute to the national cleantech ecosystem. Two notable examples are Tod Perry, who now is the Program Manager of the Clean Energy Entrepreneurship Center for NREL. Tod had originally started as a cleantech entrepreneur 5 years ago in Boston, pioneering a water purification technology, and a contestant in the first Ignite Clean Energy Competition in 2005. Another Bostonian who’s moved out to Colorado recently is Trent Yang, formerly a principal at Globespan Venture Partners, now Director, Entrepreneurship and Business Development at RASEI in Boulder (Renewable and Sustainable energy institute), part of the University of Colorado commitment to innovation in the renewable energy sector in the Rocky Mountain region. Other notable Bostonians sited at the conference included Peter Rothstein of New England Clean Energy Council, Bob Metcalfe of Polaris, and Chris Hobson, CEO of BandGap Engineering.
While out there, stopped by the Finals for the Cleantech Open’s Rocky Mountain Finals. New Sky Energy, Rivertop Renewables, and SunTrac Solar were the winners, now headed to the Cleantech Open Finals for all 3 regions up in Silicon Valley.
For more on the winners, see http://www.metrodenver.org/news-center/metro-denver-news/mayor-hickenlooper-announces-cleantech-open-winners.html