Coolerado: Slate singles out Colorado AC company as poster boy of cleantech

Most locals know Coolerado, the Denver AC company, solely from noticing the factory name as they drive east on I-70. But according to Slate, Coolerado is more than a quirky name. It's also a groundbreaking tech operation that symbolizes the opportunities and challenges of the new global economy.

That's because Coolerado doesn't make your run-of-the-mill AC units. Instead, it's taken swamp cooler technology to the next level, developing cooling units that can be twice as efficient as conventional air conditioners, but don't spew out muggy air like old-fashioned evaporative coolers. Coolerado's energy-efficient technology was singled out in Popular Science's "Best of What's New" green report last year, and the company recently scored $7.2 million in investment capitol.

According to the Slate article, cleantech companies like Coolerado could be the country's best hope for revitalizing America's export market. After all, higher energy costs in many foreign countries -- as well as less political opposition to fossil fuel alternatives -- make them promising markets for American green innovation. Tellingly, Coolerado reports that 60 percent of its sales this year come from overseas in places like Saudi Arabia and Australia.

But Coolerado and other cleantech start-ups face hurdles on the road to energy-efficient global domination, reports Slate. Coolerado's units are more expensive than conventional versions, which put them out of reach for some emerging markets. Meanwhile, China's colossal marketplace is only open to companies willing to outsource a chunk of their manufacturing -- and sometimes intellectual property -- to the Chinese mainland.

Challenges abound in the domestic market, too, since U.S. government incentives to help cover the cost of Coolerado's efficient yet pricey tech are few and far between.

Still, despite such challenges, by many measures the future looks bright -- and green -- for Coolerado, the Colorado cooling company that could.