The 10 Most Innovative Companies in Energy

solar panels

01 / SolarCity >>

For being the nation's leading installer of rooftop solar panels. In sum, SolarCity has placed more than 10,000 solar rooftops--10% of the total in the U.S. Its major clients include eBay, Walmart, and Intel; it has also signed a deal with Home Depot to become the chain's in-store vendor for home panels at 400 stores.

02 / Enerkem >>

For finding the hidden power of trash. Its proprietary thermo-chemical system uses pressure, chemicals, and 800 degrees of heat to recycle 15 different kinds of trash into renewable electricity, chemicals for plastic, and ethanol that can run cars. The Montreal-based company is currently building two commercial-scale plants that turn trash into fuel.

03 / Envirofit

For manufacturing cheap, environmentally friendly stoves for consumers in the developing world. The products rely on intensive market research, so that each stove can be "housewife-approved" for each cultural context and cooking style, and use up to 60% less fuel.

04 / Portland General Electric

For creating an investor-owned utility for renewable energy customers. The company, which has won major accolades from both the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy, serves more than 817,000 people in 52 Oregon cities.

05 / Cook Inlet Region Inc.

For establishing an Alaska-based venture capital company that's owned cooperatively by 7,500 shareholders who invest in green energy startups, wind farms, and geothermal and tidal power projects.

06 / Earth Aid

For building a web or iPhone-based monitor that measures the amount of energy, water, and natural gas a consumer uses in his or her home. Users of the system, which has been called the "Mint.com of Home Energy," can earn cash rewards from retailers for reducing their energy consumption.

07 / U.S. Military

For experimenting with energy conservation on the battlefield by sending a Marine company into Afghanistan with new equipment such as portable solar panels; energy-conserving lights; solar tent shields; and solar chargers for computers and communications. The U.S. military also leverages renewable energy stateside: a solar array at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, for example, provides about one-fourth of the base's power.

08 / GE >>

For doubling its R&D investment in clean energy technologies from $5 billion from 2005 to 2010 to $10 billion from 2010 to 2015. One of the company's more innovative green programs, an "ecomagination" challenge called "Powering the Grid," sought groundbreaking energy-saving ideas from consumers and elicited 4,000 responses from 150 countries.

09 / Joule Biotechnologies

For figuring out how to turn algae into hydrocarbon-based fuel. Joule's technology is good (read: simple and cheap) because it uses saltwater, rather than arable land or freshwater, and it brews the algae inside a closed system. As a result, yields are up to 50 times greater than any known biomass-fueled process.

10 / Solyndra

For designing cylindrical solar panels that, versus the conventional options, are both easier to install and better structured to collect light at various angles.

Browse our list of The World's Most Innovative Companies 2011

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