The Most Innovative Companies in Clean Energy

You have seen our Fast Company 50. But what are the companies within specific categories doing creative and ground-breaking work? Who is leading an industry into the future? Here we present the top ten firms in Clean Energy.

  1. NextEra Energy Resources: The top producer of wind and solar energy nationwide, serving 25 states. Its parent, FPL Group, has broken ground on the world’s first hybrid power plant, combining solar with natural gas to boost efficiency.
  2. Q-Cells: The fast-expanding photovoltaic (PV) solar-cell producer turned out 150 million units in 2008 and expects to nearly double the number in 2009. Heavy investment in next-gen thin-film technology should keep Q-Cells at the vanguard.
  3. First Solar: The current leader in thin-film technology, whose panels are approaching the low-cost holy grail of $1 per watt.
  4. Vestas: The Danish wind giant, which boasts a 23% market share worldwide, parked a 131-foot blade outside the Democratic National Convention in Denver to symbolize its four current and planned factories in Colorado.
  5. Chevron Energy Solutions: Yes, an oil company owns a leading energy-efficiency consultant and is the top installer of customized wind, solar, and biomass nationwide.
  6. Pelamis Wave Power: This Scottish company built the world’s first commercial wave-power farm, off Portugal last year, with the three orange converters bobbing off the country’s Atlantic coast and powering 1,500 homes.
  7. Raser Technologies: Its unique new zero-emissions plant in Utah is the first to tap vast low-temperature geothermal resources previously unusable for generating power. The company is developing seven more sites.
  8. Ausra: This Australian import’s brand of solar thermal power uses cheap flat mirrors rather than PV cells. After scoring $100 million in VC financing and opening a test plant in California, Ausra plans a larger one for 2010 that will power 120,000 homes.
  9. PG&E: Besides making big investments in wind and solar, the “greenest big utility” sponsors the nation’s largest smart-meter program, gave away 1 million CFL bulbs, and hooked up more customers’ solar systems to the grid than anyone else.
  10. Verenium: The company’s scientists use a brew of enzymes to turn sugarcane waste into fuel at the nation’s first demonstration-scale cellulosic ethanol plant, in Louisiana. BP inked a $90 million partnership last year.



About the author

Anya Kamenetz is the author of Generation Debt (Riverhead, 2006) and DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, (Chelsea Green, 2010). Her 2011 ebook The Edupunks’ Guide was funded by the Gates Foundation