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Boston: The CleanTech Hub of the Universe (At Least for Next Week)

Posted by Scott Kirsner  November 6, 2009 07:35 AM

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Copenhagen will be the place to be next month for the world's policy-makers, when the United Nations convenes its Climate Change Conference.

But for the doers who're developing new technologies to combat climate change, Boston will be the center of the action next week.

On Tuesday, the nation-wide Ignite Clean Energy Competition comes to the Massachusetts State House, with ten teams of entrepreneurs presenting their business plans and angling for a $35,000 top prize.

On Wednesday night, the New England Clean Energy Council holds its second annual Green Tie Gala at the JFK Library, with tickets priced at $325 a head. Congressman Ed Markey, who'll be traveling to Denmark next month for the UN conference, will be the featured speaker.

And on Wednesday and Thursday during the day, you've got the Conference on Clean Energy at the Hynes Convention Center, which will touch on new research coming out of universities, funding trends for energy businesses, and the latest breakthroughs in solar and wind. Steven Koonin, an under-secretary at the Department of Energy, will give a keynote, as will Gov. Deval Patrick.

There's also, on Sunday, this event at Harvard's Kennedy School that'll focus on the Massachusetts-Israel cleantech connection, with speakers including Rep. Markey, Michael Granoff of Better Place, and Ric Fulop from A123 Systems.

I spoke last week with Elizabeth Redmond, a University of Michigan alum who is part of one of the teams competing in the finals of the Ignite Clean Energy Competition. Her start-up, Powerleap, is developing a new kind of flooring product "that generates electricity from human and vehicular traffic," she explains. The company is exploring walkways in airports that generate enough power to run the flight delay displays, or "Saturday Night Fever"-style dance floors illuminated by fancy footwork. The flooring uses piezoelectric material that converts the kinetic energy of foot stomps or tire movement into electricity to be used on-site; pilot tests are happening over the next twelve months, and a commercial product could be on the market as soon as late 2010.

"We're giving a ten-minute presentation next week at the State House, and we'll have a demo there," says Redmond. "We're excited about competing, and we like our chances to win."

Here's a fun Forbes video featuring Powerleap's technology:

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2 comments so far...
  1. The climate change conference in Kopenhagen will be extremely important in my eyes. Information about it you can read at

    Posted by Cleanthinking November 7, 09 01:50 PM
  1. Elizabeth Redmond is an incredibly talented "designtrepreneur!" Check out more cool videos and pictures from her here:

    Posted by Eleanor November 11, 09 09:07 AM


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About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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April 3-4: Mass Biotech Annual Meeting
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