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Five Clean Tech Open Startups to Watch

armageddonThe California Clean Tech Open, often regarded as one of the top business plan competitions in the world, announced the semi-finalists yesterday for its 2009 competition. 50 early-stage startups were chosen to compete in the categories of Water & Waste, Energy Efficiency, Green Building, Renewable Energy, Smart Power and Transportation. Winners receive $50,000 in cash, $50,000 for business services and a chance for funding—along with the benefit of the Clean Tech Open's track record for selecting successful companies like Cool Earth Solar (2006 runner up) and BuildFast (2007 winner). The top five finalists in each category won't be announced until the fall, but we've culled a list of some of our favorites from the semi-finalist group.

1. Armageddon Energy
We've already written about this enterprising startup, which makes prefab teflon-coated rooftop solar panels that take only a few minutes to set up. Armageddon recently completed a series of prototypes and expects commercial production to begin in a year.

2. Parco Homes
This company builds customized zero net energy prefab homes that it bills as "LEGO for adults." Parco was asked by Al Gore earlier this year to ready a white paper examining the prospects for the widespread adoption of low-carbon and carbon-neutral prefab housing. The startup has garnered significant press in the San Francisco Bay Area, and is currently working on a home project in Berkeley.

3. Velkess
Founded in 2007, Velkess has developed a new type of energy storage that it claims is capable of storing and regenerating electrical energy a fraction of the cost of currently available technologies. Velkess's prototype system uses a kinetic flywheel to store energy in the momentum of a giant spinning wheel. Next up: building a larger prototype to demonstrate the technology's applications for the power grid.

4. Powerzoa
The Powerzoa, developed in a Presidio School of Management class on Sustainable Products and Services, is a smart plug that connects to wall outlets. Unlike other smart plugs that display energy on an attached display, the Powerzoa sends energy usage data to a Web site, where  appliances can be scheduled to automatically turn on or off. No word on a potential release date or if a prototype is available.

5. NanoBrane
NanoBrane is working on a nanotech solution to reduce membrane fouling in water filtration systems. Membranes are a popular technology for water purification, but the systems normally have to be replaced every three to five years. NanoBrane claims it can double the operating lifespan and reduce operating expenses by up to 20%. The company is taking requests for pilot study partnerships on its Web site.

[Clean Tech Open via MNN]

Your Next Home Improvement: DIY Solar Panels from Armageddon Energy