Though Breaking Energy’s Top Fives series has come to a close, the desire to recognize the leaders in the energy business is still strong. For many, that is because the financial opportunities available in these companies could be expensive to miss.

Business development agency Grow-California has chosen 40 clean technology companies — from smart meter groups and waste management companies to biofuel firms and solar start ups — as top innovators in the industry. With budgets tightening and the future of incentive and loan guarantee programs unclear, it may be only the best and the brightest that make it through the upcoming years of likely consolidation in the sector.

But for the ones that remain, profits are estimated to be quite lucrative. And many venture capitalists are afraid of missing the next big “green rush.” Read more: “Time To Anoint The Winners” In CleanTech Venture Capital.

Grow-California, a spin off of business consulting and training group Golden Capital Network will choose 15 from the top 40 companies to receive “Game Changer of the Year” awards at a special luncheon that will close the first ever Clean Tech Innovation Conference, set to take place November 2-3 at the Kaiser Center in downtown Oakland.

Innovation in clean technology in particular has been led in many cases by young entrepreneurs.

The Cleantech Open

Since 2006, some 400 alumni have competed in the separate annual Cleantech Open which awards one winner $250,000 in investment and in services. Last year there were 93 competitors and this year there were 150. Its 400 alumni have raised over $280 million in private capital, 80% remain economically viable today, and more than 2,000 new clean technology jobs have been created.

“It’s a way of getting entrepreneurs off the couch. There’s some money at the end of the rainbow,” Cleantech Open Executive Director Rex Northen told Breaking Energy. Read more on the Cleantech Open: On The Cusp: Clean Tech And Investors.

See the Grow-California Top 40 list and read the full story, from GROWCalifornia, here.