For the third time in five years, a Maine startup has been chosen as a winner of the northeast regional Cleantech Open, a competition for companies working in the energy and environmental sectors.
Surge Hydro at an event Thursday evening in Boston was selected as one of four regional winners of the competition, along with two companies from Massachusetts and another from New Jersey. The winners received $15,000 in cash and $5,000 in in-kind services. They will now go on to compete in the national competition, being held in February in California, and the chance to win $100,000 in funding, according to Jeff Marks, executive director of E2Tech.
The Cleantech Open is a hybrid between a startup accelerator and business pitch competition. It claims to be the world’s largest accelerator for startups working in the areas of environmental science and clean energy. The six-month program provides startups with extensive mentoring, training, business clinics, and access to investors and capital. Since 2005, more than 1,000 startups have participated in its annual accelerator and mentorship program in the United States. These businesses have raised a total of more than $1.2 billion.
There were 29 companies competing in the 2016 northeast regional event, including Surge Hydro and two others from Maine: Delta Dewatering, an environmental services company in South Portland that provides innovative technology solutions for the purpose of cleaning water, and F.E. Wood Natural Energy, a Portland wood-pellet fuel company.
Surge Hydro, which also won the Cleantech Open’s crowd-favorite award, is attempting to use technology and “disruptive ideas” to leverage the country’s underutilized hydroelectric infrastructure. More than 90% of existing dams in the United States, roughly 80,000 or so dams, don’t produce electricity, according to the Belfast-based company. Co-founders David Markley and Nicholas Cabral, both Maine Maritime Academy graduates, want to change that by utilizing local smart grid networks so communities can harness low-cost hydropower. (Surge Hydro is also the only Maine company to be chosen to participate this year in MassChallenge, a highly regarded startup accelerator in Boston.)
Surge Hydro is the third Maine company in the past five years to win the regional Cleantech Open, according to Marks at E2Tech. Pika Energy in Gorham won in 2012 and Portland-based Rapport won in 2015. Both went on to compete in the national competition, but neither won.
“Pika Energy led the pack in 2012, Rapport followed in 2015, and now SurgeHydro brings home the prize,” Marks told Maine Startups Insider. “This is a big deal and provides the company with national exposure to potential investors and partners from around the world.”
Marks said Maine has been gaining prominence in the cleantech space in recent years. Maine ranked 18th in the country in the 2016 U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index—a data-based comparison of all 50 states among 70 technology, capital, and policy indicators, according to Marks. In 2014, the state’s ranking was 29th, he said.