Yesterday, we looked back into the past to see how some of the early pioneers of green have fared in their first ten years of business.
Some -- particularly Suntech Power Holdings, SunPower, and EnerNoc -- have become respected, profitable public companies. Others -- Bloom Energy, MiaSolé -- have promise. A few -- GreenFuel Technologies -- went into rehab.
So how does the class of 2002 look so far?
--General Electric announced in February 2002 that it wanted to buy the wind division of bankrupt Enron (see above). From those ashes, GE goes onto become one of the biggest wind turbine manufacturers in the world.
--LED streetlights start to get adopted in 2002, according to LED maker Dialight. In turn, improving technology and performance begins to draw VC funds and entrepreneurs.
Bridgelux, riding a crest of expansion right now, is born in 2002 with the idea of cutting costs by reducing the number of components in an LED. Luminus Devices, an MIT spin-out, comes out the same year with a counterintuitive strategy: it makes an extra-large chip. Although bigger, it potentially produces more light for less. Unfortunately, complexities bog down the technology. Despite millions in VC funds, it has yet to take flight.
--First Solar shipped its first cadmium telluride solar cells, a technology others had tried but had finally stopped pursuing. First Solar was started years earlier, but the birth of the behemoth we now know as First Solar began with those panels. The company held a striking IPO in 2005 and has been rising ever since. General Electric will soon begin to make cadmium telluride solar modules and CIGS will go mainstream, but First Solar is by far and away the biggest name in thin film.
--NanoSolar, which specializes in copper indium gallium selenide solar cells, is founded. Former CEO Martin Roscheisen claims several times that the company is shipping panels. He is unceremoniously let go in 2010 and the world still awaits the panels. NanoSolar also marks the foray of Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page into green investing.
MiaSolé, another CIGS vendor, was founded the year before. Despite earlier troubles, it is shipping panels in volume and aiming for an IPO this year.
--AC Propulsion founder Tom Gage tells a then-unemployed entrepreneur he's not interested in making electric sports cars. Gage, though, gives him the number of another guy who asked Gage the same thing. Martin Eberhard contacts Elon Musk. The two go on to found Tesla Motors -- and to author one of the greatest Silicon Valley love stories ever told.