“Not disposable” is printed on the floor next to the Styrofoam recycling area at the Recology store in Bothell. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

“Not disposable” is printed on the floor next to the Styrofoam recycling area at the Recology store in Bothell. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Purchase Photo

Clean technology is about more than just wind and solar

Local companies are baking clean tech into manufacturing processes and products and services of all kinds.

EVERETT — What is clean technology? Until 10 or 15 years ago, clean tech referred almost exclusively to ventures focused on the design and manufacture of renewable energy sources — such as wind and solar and the batteries used to store that energy.

Now,it can be used to describe products and services that reduce pollution, waste and energy use in a broad range of industries, said Diane Kamionka, head of TheLab@Everett, a business incubator that’s paired with the Seattle-based CleanTech Alliance to present monthly clean tech discussions.

“Clean tech is now incorporated into manufacturing, food production and packaging,” Kamionka said.

Nearly 84,000 people are employed in clean tech sectors throughout Washington, according to a report called Clean Jobs Washington 2019, including 36,500 in King County, 7,800 in Snohomish County and 7,000 in Pierce County.

Cutting an unnecessary step in a manufacturing process or supply chain can lower costs and the amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted.

In Bothell, ASX Composites, a year-old startup, is about to deploy machines that can manufacture carbon fiber composites in small quantities and onsite, a method that can save on storage and transportation costs, said Andy Buchan, the firm’s vice president of strategy and business development.

Composites, the materials used in the manufacture of lightweight aerospace parts and wind turbines, are usually manufactured in large quantities and then stored in huge refrigerators that gobble electricity. Delivery requires hauling the material on refrigerated trucks. ASX Composites hopes to streamline the process at several points in the supply chain — reducing storage time and transportation costs.

For 20 years, WaterTectonics, an Everett firm, has been treating wastewater that’s used in the construction, mining and oil-and-gas industries. The company’s patented technologies remove heavy metals, oil and other particles so that water can be safely returned to the environment. “It’s one thing to put together a small system in the basement — the challenge is getting it to work in an industry where the flow might be 100 to 2,000 gallons a minute,” said Jason Mothersbaugh, the company’s vice president and general manager.

The Recology store in Bothell’s Canyon Park Place shopping center sells recycled products and up-cycled goods, including dryer fabric softeners made of recycled wool, wallets fashioned from airplane seat leather and a reusable ear swab. “It’s actually really popular,” said Erin Gagnon, who oversees Recology’s four Puget Sound retail locations.

Concern over human-created climate change has prompted more companies and governments to take steps to reduce carbon footprints. “Footprint” refers to the amount of carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping greenhouse gas, that’s released in the course of human activity, such as oil and natural gas extraction, farming and travel that uses fossil fuels. Carbon dioxide is implicated in the rise of drought, heat waves, heavier rain, flooding, shrinking polar ice caps and changes in the habitat of marine and land animals.

Last year, the Snohomish County Council unanimously passed a resolution committing to a goal of 100% clean electricity by 2030 and 100% clean energy in its transportation and other energy sectors by 2045. The pledge includes the creation of an energy efficiency fund and commitments to a green fleet and green building policy.

The county’s pledge is similar to measures in Edmonds, Bellingham, Spokane, Whatcom County and elsewhere.

The Everett City Council passed a resolution last month declaring a climate emergency. The measure, introduced by councilman Paul Roberts, requires the city to review energy, land use and transportation methods as part of an overall public and private effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Last month, Microsoft pledged to become 100% “carbon-negative” by 2030, which means that it plans to remove more carbon from the environment than it emits.

Can capitalism reduce the region’s carbon footprint?

Eric Berman, a member of a Puget Sound-based investors group focused on clean technology, thinks so.

Berman is the board of directors co-chair at E8, an angel investors group that backs clean tech companies. The organization is named after oxygen, the eighth element in the periodic table. Since its 2006 founding, E8 has invested nearly $40 million in clean-tech companies.

“Policy and charity are great — important — but at the end of the day the most powerful tool is capitalism,” Berman said.

“If you can’t make money being sustainable, you’re always going to be a niche. Automaker Tesla is great not because they’re green but because they make amazing cars,” Berman said.

E8 candidates are generally past the friends-and-family stage of a young company’s evolution, Berman said.

“They’ve raise a little bit of money, they’ve got a prototype. They’ve made a gallon of something, now they need to make 10,000 gallons. They have a credible business plan. Our money should give them about two years of runway until they can be self-sustaining,” Berman said.

Investment strategies have changed in the past decade, he said. Until about 2010, clean tech investment centered on science and manufacturing. Now it’s more closely focused on technologies that reduce waste and energy use. So, for example, investing in software that controls a car battery’s recharging cycle could be a sound investment. “Batteries last longer if you don’t fully charge and discharge them,” Berman explained.

The Seattle-based CleanTech Alliance aims to support the growth of clean tech companies and jobs through educational programs, research, products and services. “Our mission is helping companies get started and be successful in this sector,” said J. Thomas Ranken, president and CEO. That includes helping entrepreneurs identify potential markets. “We had a young woman, an entomologist, come in who wanted to feed the world with bugs,” Ranken said. “Instead of human food, we found that the bigger market is animal food. She’s doing very well,” he said.

Janice Podsada; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods

Learn more about clean tech

TheLab@everett is live-streaming the 2020 CleanTech Alliance Breakfast Series, a free monthly event that showcases clean tech speakers and topics, lab director Kamionka said.

The next installment, “Changing Trends in Energy Storage,” will be live-streamed from 7:30 to 9 a.m. on Feb. 18 from TheLab at 1001 N Broadway in Everett.

Jud Virden, associate lab director for energy and the environment at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, is the featured speaker. Everyone is welcome to attend.

TheLab is also sponsoring a free Clean Tech Mixer on Feb. 25 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. It’s a social hour to talk about clean tech.

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