Cleantech Blog "Power 10" Ranking Vol III 2010

This year picking the Top 10 Cleantech companies felt a little more challenging than 2009 and 2008.  The sector is growing (and growing up), and struggling under its first cycles.  Biofuels is a bit smashed up (as we’ve been predicting), water tech still has not emerged, solar is learning how to play with the big boys, smart grid is growing up fast but still a bit young, carbon is still under a policy uncertainty cloud. And EVs, well “where’s the beef?” is still the phrase that comes to mind.

I spend most of my day meeting and talking to companies in the cleantech sector. And those of you who know me know I have opinions on who is doing it right, and who is doing it wrong.

As before this is the Cleantech Blog Power 10 Ranking of cleantech companies doing it right.

Eligibility for inclusion in the ranking requires meeting a 6 point test. Suggestions for inclusions in future volumes are welcome. The 6 point test:

1. The company is energy or environmental technology related
2. I like their products
3. The market needs them
4. The company is smart about building their business
5. I’d like to own the company if I could (for the right price, of course!)
6. It is not already one of mine

So here we go:

1.  First Solar – Still growing, still maligned, still taking market share, still the cost leader by 5,233 miles.  The whole solar category owes them big time.  And it bought Nextlight Renewable Power, which might have made the list in its own right.

2.  A123 – A123 has huge challenges in front of it, and we debated whether they should come anywhere near the list at all.  But to be honest, without their IPO, the last year would have looked really bleak (and the A123 c. 50% downround before that really was bleak).  Thanks guys, we’re rooting for you.  Don’t make me regret this one.

3.  Nissan –  Is it Leafs or Leaves?  No matter, kudos for rolling dice to make a serious play in EVs.  Fingers crossed that the actual launch keeps you on the list.  Of note, before you ask about Tesla, see below.

4.  Sharp – Still a solar king, so I still won’t dethrone them.  But we got close this year to just listing only one PV manufacturer.

5.  JP Morgan – Kudos for snatching up the best asset in the carbon markets at a bargain price.  The first mover in over $1 Billion in M&A in the carbon markets that has announced since the fall (JPM/Ecosecurities, Barclays/Tricorona, ICE/Climate Exchange PLC, Reuters/Point Carbon).  Smart money is buying, and you moved first.

6.  Enphase Energy – I’m very, very curious to see if microinverters finally have real legs.  Kudos for essentially making the category real.

7.  Landis+Gyr – Still my favorite in smart grid.  Until one of the US venture backed players delivers enough to challenge them for market share, they stay the smart grid representative.  Though perhaps Silver Spring can push them this next year?

8.  Walmart – We pushed GE off for Walmart this year.  I expect to get hammered for this one.  But be honest with yourself, their push for greening up their supply chain was serious, was massive, and is and can be the single biggest impact on the cleantech sector ever.  Walmart haters, go home.  The market leader is leading.

9.  Iberdrola Renewables – Keep on trucking.  Wind energy is still our cleantech crown jewel, and you are still the king.

10.  Philips Lumileds – We probably should have had them on last year’s list, as LEDs continue to thrive and may be one of the biggest unsung stars in cleantech, and Lumileds is long the key LED powerhouse.

Applied Material’s well publicized issues have knocked them off this year’s list, but we have hope they’ll be back.  And I really really wanted to add both Schott and Solel, the solar thermal receiver kings, but ran out of room.

This Year We Add a Dishonorable Mention to:
1.  Any company raising money with Advanced Equities, which would include Bloom Energy, SolFocus, Fisker, Serious Materials et al.  If that statement doesn’t make sense to you, just google the words advanced equities scam.  Has the potential to sink major venture firms and the whole cleantech venture sector if we’re not careful.  Or read below. 
Garbage In, Forbes Magazine
Advanced Equities Takes Its Investors on a Bad Trip, Venture Beat
2.  Solyndra – Tsk, tsk, $3.50/Wp for CIGS is not very exciting after $1 bil in capital, and $500 mm of taxpayer money?  Aren’t we supposed to be selling CIGS for $1/Wp these days without subsidies ;)?  No wonder the IPO got pulled.  How happy do you think Barack Obama is with his investment now?
3.  Tesla – Selling 10 cars a week?  With $400 mm of my taxpayer money?  Come on people.  Sell to your rich friends without my money.  All Tesla fans should read the Michael Kanellos article with the “selling 10 cars a week” bit. I think there are 10 dealerships within 10 miles of the NUMMI plant alone that outsell that. Is this an EV company or an SNL skit?  Go Nissan!
Neal Dikeman is a partner with cleantech merchant bank Jane Capital Partners LLC, and the Chairman of Carbonflow, as well as the editor and creator behind Cleantech Blog and

16 replies
  1. Ebikeguy
    Ebikeguy says:

    Come on! A dishonorable mention to Tesla?! You do realize that they won't be selling 10 cars per week forever, right? You do realize that they need a lot of capital now to build the infrastructure needed to ramp up production? Saying that we should not have funded Tesla now is a bit like saying we should not have funded the Apollo program in 1967. After all, they had not gotten a man on the moon at that point.

  2. Jerome
    Jerome says:

    I agree with your assessment of Tesla, but for a different reason. I think Tesla has the wrong business model. The electric vehicle and the battery industries should be separate, so that improvements in batteries along the lines of Moore's Law, can be separate from improvements in the vehicle. The vehicle should have a place for the battery in its undercarriage. That way the electric vehicle owner has the option of recharging the battery, say, while at work or at home, but retains the option of swapping out an uncharged battery for a fully charged one at "service stations" run by the battery industry.

  3. Andy Leventhal
    Andy Leventhal says:

    I like most of what you say here but, Walmart? I really dont think you would want to own that company. Second, even if you did, we all need to look more carefully at the specifics of what they are trying to do to their supply chain under the guise of greening the supply chain. Yanking shipping/transport/logistics away from their suppliers is dirty play and while it looks like its a "green" play, its dismantling them one piece at a time. Forcing suppliers to comply with a lousy Sustainability index and calling it a strategy is only going to weaken their suppliers financial viability (which they have already forced them to do simply by doing business with WMT). Lastly, I have looked very closely at the index, its rules and how they plan to measure and its a long way from viable. I like their direction but there is little collaboration and their "stick" approach will only further alienate them from the rest of the industry.

  4. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    None of your tax money is going towards selling Tesla Roadsters. It's going towards development of manufacturing facilities for the Model S sedan, which is the only serious EV contender out there, unless of course you are the kind of guy who likes driving your car at 1/4 tank or less at all time (LEAF's EPA Range of 100 = real world range of 80 or so = 1/4 tank of gas or less on a similar car.) Model S will have a range of over 250 miles. As someone said, Tesla's biggest problem is not bifurcating its business. Tesla Cars should be an upmarket (50+k) Sedan and sports car maker that more or less breaks even & a Tesla Battery & High Power Electronics Solutions entity should sell batteries, battery management controls & motor control units to major automotive players. Tesla would pwn every other battery and high voltage controls maker out there because they have already "field tested" their solutions on 1000+ vehicles in customer hands, which in the real world, matters a zillion times more than any kind of lab based testing/ simulation done by highly intelligent people.-Tesla Fan

  5. mg
    mg says:

    the G-DRIVE Concept by the Energravity Team.It is emerging,at final cros-proof stage of its tech development. Already negotiating with top global players, instead of launching

  6. John Robert
    John Robert says:

    EV's and solar stations, parking solar groves (see and a commitment to harness the sun's power 100 fold (like the computer chip) and EV will take over.

  7. Mollie Bloudoff-Inde
    Mollie Bloudoff-Inde says:

    You mention a couple solar companies. I'd like to get your opinion on Solar Roadways, a company built by Scott Brusaw that plans on converting the nation's roads, driveways and parking lots into solar panels. Do you think it will work?-Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato

  8. Mollie Bloudoff-Inde
    Mollie Bloudoff-Inde says:

    You mention a couple solar companies. I'd like to get your opinion on Solar Roadways, a company built by Scott Brusaw that plans on converting the nation's roads, driveways and parking lots into solar panels. Do you think it will work?-Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato

  9. Mollie Bloudoff-Inde
    Mollie Bloudoff-Inde says:

    You mention a couple solar companies. I'd like to get your opinion on Solar Roadways, a company built by Scott Brusaw that plans on converting the nation's roads, driveways and parking lots into solar panels. Do you think it will work?-Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato

  10. Jane Hernandez
    Jane Hernandez says:

    The Walmart story shows that even the worst PR can be turned around with creative thinking (listen up BP!). Not only will they be greening their huge supply chain but also passing along the savings to customers. I can't believe that I am no longer a Walmart hater.

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