Marina Technology Cluster supports green-oriented entrepreneurs countywide.

Passing on Gas: Ray Kemp, the “mad scientist in charge” at KF3 in Moss Landing, describes the beehive reactor system that makes inexpensive and eco-friendly diesel fuel.

Ray Kemp scampers around his Moss Landing backyard dressed in a blue, grease-stained lab coat. Kemp is the “mad scientist in charge” of KF3 BioDiesel Production. He meticulously generates between 60 to 70 gallons of biodiesel a week out of the back of a small moving truck parked in his driveway. Rows of amber jars filled with samples from each biodiesel batch line Kemp’s bedroom window.

In fast-paced spiel Kemp explains that his home-brewed biodiesel is in high demand since Pacific Biofuel in Santa Cruz shut down its pump. But due to the deflated economy and staggering gas prices, Kemp says there is a shift in his recycled cooking oil supply. Restaurants are using less oil to save money, and some are even starting to charge for their used grease. “There is, all of a sudden, fervent demand for this resource,” says Kemp, pointing to plastic jugs of mud-colored vegetable oil.

Rather than meet this demand himself, Kemp wants to train people how to start their own biodiesel co-ops. Cornered by a cluster of large vats in the back his truck, Kemp explains how his Bee Hive biodiesel system purifies the vegetable oil, creates a reaction with methanol, separates the end product and ultimately dispenses diesel engine-ready fuel. “The idea is to start more and more hives,” Kemp says. “This is the queen hive.”

Kemp has 20 patents pending on his biodiesel microbrewery, thanks in part to the Marina Technology Cluster, a business incubator that connected Kemp with a patent attorney and helped him develop his business plan. Now the cluster is looking to attract more green-oriented entrepreneurs. The business incubator will soon apply for a $70,000 grant that will explore developing clean energy and geotourism in the Monterey Bay area.

On Thursday, July 10, the cluster will host a clean technology panel, featuring Kemp, as well as speakers on energy efficiency, carbon trading, solar and wind power. (Full disclosure: the Weekly is a sponsor of this event and Publisher Erik Cushman is a member of MTC’s advisory board.)

The technology cluster is the only business incubator in Monterey County. Based at the UC MBEST Center on Imjin Road in Marina, about a dozen startup businesses rent office space from the cluster– from food-processing and packaging innovator Anzu Technologies to vehicle-navigation system designer MacroNav Systems. The cluster, which is sponsored by the city of Marina, opened its doors in 2001. With funding from the Marina’s Community Development Block Grant program, the cluster provides free entrepreneur training and business plan development to companies that earn no more than $51,840 annually. That’s 80 percent or less of county median income, says Alan Barich, who is filling in as the cluster’s executive director for his wife, Susan Barich. “It is really creating a space, a place that is going to provide business creation/job creation,” Barich says. A survey conducted last year found technology cluster graduates and tenants created 63 jobs and were projected to generate more than $38 million in 2008.

Kemp says his business is still not profitable, but he is losing less money than before. Alan Barich hopes that Kemp will ultimately have a solid business and says he’d like to bring more eco-minded and energy-efficient companies into the technology cluster. “These types of technologies are really needed,” Barich says, especially with mounting concerns over global warming and rising gas prices.

The cluster has a handful of sustainable businesses under its wing, including clean and solar energy company Blueline Power and green marketing firm Ecomentum. The cluster has established technology focus areas in marine science, agricultural technology, renewable energy, energy conservation and information technology.

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Pete Brumis, founder and principal of Ecomentum, says green technology should be explored much more in Monterey County, including untapped wind power and biomass in the Salinas Valley, and fog collection from the coast. “It’s a really rich area for green energy, and we have some of the most expensive water and energy in the country,” Brumis says.

The cluster is applying for a $70,000 grant that will allow it to study these areas as well as geotourism, which could range from a biodiesel-powered boat tour to dune restoration volunteer work incorporated into vacation packages, Brumis says. “We should be working together to utilize public funding and private-sector funding to create more of these businesses to tap into the opportunities that exist here,” he says.

The clean technology panel happens from 5:30-7:30pm Thursday, July 10, at the Marina Technology Cluster, 3180 Imjin Road, Marina. $20/donation; $10/MTC members. 582-9718.

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