Clean tech is an emerging industry in Lexington and there are many assets in place to help propel the industry forward in the region. Of particular importance are the growing number of biotechnology firms in the area and the high concentration of life sciences research being conducted at the University of Kentucky.
In response to rising concerns about energy independence and costs of traditional energy sources, the clean technology ("clean tech") industry has received considerable attention in the last few years. Clean tech uses technologies, processes, or services to minimize the environmental impact of production, energy consumption, and power generation. Renewable energy and energy efficiency are core to clean tech. Clean tech refers to practices and products in any industry and is not easily categorized by standard industry classification systems, such as the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) which organizes businesses based on economic activity rather than technologies and practices.
Lexington's Growing Clean Tech Industry
Lexington's clean tech industry has several notable companies, including Alltech, 3H Company, LLC, NuForm Materials, and nGimat, LLC.
While Alltech is known primarily as an industry leader in animal health and nutrition, Alltech expanded into the renewable energy field in 2011 with the purchase of a $14 million algae fermentation facility here in the Bluegrass, one of the largest algae facilities in the world. Algae are expected to become a crucial area of development as the United States pursues renewable sources of energy.
Entrepreneurs at 3H Company, LLC, a local clean tech startup housed in Lexington's Coldstream Research Campus, have developed a ground-breaking carbon (CO2) capture technology. 3H's patented system will improve energy efficiencies by using 80% less energy than current state-of-the-art technology for capturing CO2 emissions from coal manufacturing and other forms of combustion energy production. Furthermore, this method can use the captured CO2 to extricate more oil and natural gas from depleted wells.
nGimat, LLC, is a nanomaterials R&D and manufacturing company in Lexington that produces high performance nanomaterials for lithium-ion batteries and energy storage components for electrical smart grids, with applications in the energy, electronics, automotive, consumer, and biomedical industries.
University of Kentucky entrepreneurial scientists created and patented a profess to recycle coal manufacturing byproducts and produce innovative building materials. Their company, NuForm Materials, captures and reuses discarded coal ash, a byproduct from coal production, to manufacture lightweight and durable ceramic materials for the automotive and aerospace industries. Although not physically located in the Bluegrass Region, the innovation and success of the researchers at NuForm are a testament to the many ways that the University of Kentucky and Lexington's environment of innovation and entrepreneurship are contributing to the growing cluster of clean technology and renewable energy companies.
Many partners work alongside UK's research and development of clean and renewable energy sources, developing a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. The Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) is a multidisciplinary energy technology research center to improve the environment. Multiple specialized research facilities are part of the CAER, including an algae greenhouse to produce biofuels and bioproducts from algae, an engineered fuels lab that uses low-value or waste from coal to create high-value fuel briquettes and pellets, a fuels-processing development facility to develop fuels from a petroleum substitute, and a renewable fuels lab focused on biofuels. More than 100 professional scientists and engineers staff the CAER and work closely with faculty and students. Like many research centers at the University of Kentucky, the CAER not only produces world class research and technologies but also offers support services to others, such as analytic testing, technical problem-solving, and collaborative research.
Click here to read Commerce Lexington's Clean Technology White Paper.