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Flexible, transparent solar cells

The Massachusetts area has gotten the green-tech bug. A cluster of green energy companies has formed over the past few years, developing a wide range of technologies represented in this slideshow.

Here is a picture of a transparent version of Konarka's plastic solar cells. The company is seeking partners to embed the solar cells into windows and other building materials.

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Wind turbines born from jet engines

FloDesign Wind Turbine is an intriguing wind power company in Massachusetts that is using jet engine technology to make a more productive wind turbine.

The idea is to take advantage of air flow dynamics to concentrate wind and squeeze more electricity from a smaller machine. The company, backed by venture capital company Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, is working on a prototype.

Updated:Caption:Photo:FloDesign Wind Turbine
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Mascoma's fuel food

Mascoma is a biotechnology company spun out of the University of Dartmouth to genetically design micro-organisms that can turn the cellulose in plants into ethanol.

The company is testing its system, which does not use enzymes as traditional ethanol processing does, in New York with plans for a plant in Michigan as well. For a visual tour of its lab, click here.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Martin LaMonica/CNET
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Moving light to make electricity

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has emerged as a hotbed for research and technology development in energy. Among the many companies already spun out of MIT is Covalent Solar.

Company technicians have used a relatively common dye to coax light to move to the edges of glass sheets where they plan to put solar cells. The light is concentrated to make more electricity from cells. The design also uses less silicon cell material than traditional panels.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Covalent Solar
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Battery tech

A123 Systems is one of the best known green-tech companies in the Boston area. The lithium ion battery company, spun out of MIT, makes batteries for Black & Decker tools and is angling to supply packs to auto makers and utilities for grid storage. Here is a photo of an early version of its auto battery pack, fitted for a Toyota Prius plug-in.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Martin LaMonica/CNET
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From laptops to electric vehicles

Boston Power started four years to make lithium ion batteries for laptops. It is now moving into the automotive market, using the same basic cells, seen in blue inside this battery pack.

The company has applied for a Department of Energy loan program set up to encourage domestic auto battery manufacturing. It hopes to build a plant in central Massachusetts in a facility that is now a retailer's warehouse.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Martin LaMonica/CNET
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Turning coal into natural gas

GreatPoint Energy received the most funding--over $100 million--of all green-tech companies in 2008. Here is a photo of its demonstration facility in Somerset, Mass., for converting coal into natural gas using gasification. For a tour of facility, click here.

Updated:Caption:Photo:GreatPoint Energy
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Turning trash into electricity

Down the road from GreatPoint Energy's coal-to-natural gas plant is Ze-Gen, which is also using gasification but with a different feedstock: garbage.

Ze-Gen is testing a method to use high-temperature gasification on construction debris, a process that makes a gas that can be burned to make electricity.

IST Energy is another company that plans to turn trash into energy but with units big enough to fit onto truck flatbeds.

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String Ribbon solar panels

A relatively well established solar company in the state is Evergreen Solar, which has a technique for manufacturing solar cells with what it says is a lower cost process. The company recently opened a new facility in Devens, Mass.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Evergreen Solar
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Solar cheaper than coal

The same person behind Evergreen Solar--MIT professor Ely Sachs--is behind another solar company with a different technology.

1366 Technologies is commercializing a handful of techniques to make silicon solar cells more productive and the fabrication cheaper.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Martin LaMonica/CNET
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Spinning into grid stability market

Beacon Power has a flywheel that can store and dispatch electricity onto the grid very quickly. The product is now being used in Massachusetts and is planned for a multi-megawatt installation in New York later this year for grid frequency regulation.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Beacon Power
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BigBelly Solar crushes trash

BigBelly Solar is another Boston green company that makes a public trash compactor powered by solar panels on top. It sells primarily to municipalities that can save money by picking up less frequently. BigBelly recently raised venture capital and signed a distribution deal with Waste Management.

Updated:Caption:Photo:BigBelly Solar
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