The Plenty 20

By Danielle Wood

Illustration by Matthew Bandsuch

12: Green Mountain Energy
Austin, Texas
Since 1997, Green Mountain Energy has allowed consumers to purchase cleaner electricity and help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the air each year. In the past decade, its customers have created a demand for 13 new wind and solar facilities across the country, and it has sold six billion kilowatt-hours worth of renewable energy generated by a variety of sources, including wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal, and biomass. That’s the CO2 equivalent of not driving 4.6 billion miles. And Green Mountain’s eMission Solutions program is a relatively painless way for businesses to offset their carbon footprints. With electricity generation still the leading cause of industrial air pollution in the U.S., every step counts.

13 Konarka
Lowell, Massachusetts
In the heat of battle, soldiers in the field need reliable energy sources. That’s why the U.S. Army recently awarded $1.6 million to this small company. Konarka’s solar-powered plastic, a nano-material that’s deposited like ink onto a surface or material, can be embedded into clothing, implanted into consumer electronics, or woven into textiles. It can help power objects as small as a cell phone or as large as a Hummer. For the military, Konarka has begun developing tents capable of generating their own power and foldout solar panels that would reduce the number of batteries soldiers must carry, as well as wearable communication systems powered by sunlight. These technologies aren’t expected to hit the consumer market for a few more years, but with more than 200 global patents or patent applications and two Nobel Laureates on its payroll, the company has the mental muscle to reinvent solar power as we know it.  

14: Goldman Sachs
New York City
This blueblood investment bank rocked Wall Street when it called on the U.S. government to address climate change. Rather than pressure Washington to shield big business from environmental obligations, the financial powerhouse rolled out an eight-page environmental policy, stating that “voluntary action alone cannot solve the climate change problem.”

Next, the company pledged to use its influence to move markets and investors. In the past year it’s done just that, pumping close to $1 billion into renewable energy.

Goldman Sachs has also committed to helping to develop a U.S. market for emissions trading and has spoken out in favor of government incentives for technologies that lead to a less carbon-dependent society. The bank’s new public policy arm will churn out independent research with assistance from the academic and non-profit communities.

15: Ormat Technologies
Reno, Nevada
In a sense, the people behind Ormat Technologies are miners, but they’re not after gold or diamonds—they’re looking for heat. Deep in the earth’s crust is a supply of mostly untapped energy: hot water just itching to get to the surface in the form of steam. The hardest part is getting to it. Here in the U.S., that’s only feasible along the “ring of fire”—California, Hawaii, and other western locations known for their tectonic activity. But with just six U.S. power plants and four more overseas, Ormat produces enough geothermal energy to power about 360,000 homes.

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Issue 25

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