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02/25/2010 10:51 AM
Fuel Cell Company Emerges From Stealth Operations
Silicon Valley-based fuel cell company Bloom Energy Corporation emerged from stealth operations Wednesday, officially unveiled it's first product to great fanfare and industry anticipation.
The Bloom Energy Server is a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) capable of producing 100 kilowatts (KW) of electricity from natural or biogas to power the operations of large commercial operations.
For the unveiling the company highlighted numerous big name customers who have already put the systems into operation, including Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE: KO); Google (Nasdaq: GOOG); Walmart (NYSE: WMT); and eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY), which hosted the ceremony to show of a large bank of the fuel cells already in operatioi outside the company's LEED gold certified “Mint” building in North San Jose, California.
Bloom Energy said customers can expect a 3-5 year payback on their capital investment from the energy cost savings, and, depending on whether they are using a fossil or renewable fuel, they can also achieve a 40-100% reduction in their carbon footprint as compared with the US grid.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger attended the ceremony, as did General Colin Powell, who has joined Bloom's board.
Dr. KR Sridhar, principal co-founder and CEO of Bloom Energy, explained the impact he believes the company will have: “We believe that we can have the same kind of impact on energy that the mobile phone had on communications. Just as cell phones circumvented landlines to proliferate telephony, Bloom Energy will enable the adoption of distributed power as a smarter, localized energy source. "
Powder to Power – How It Works
Founded in 2001, Bloom Energy traces its roots to the NASA Mars space program. For NASA, Sridhar and his team were charged with building technology to help sustain life on Mars using solar energy and water to produce air to breath and fuel for transportation. They soon realized that their technology could have an even greater impact here on Earth and began work on what would become the Bloom Energy Server.
The Bloom Energy Server converts air and a range of fuel sources into electricity via a clean electrochemical process, rather than dirty combustion. Even running on a fossil fuel, the systems are said to be approximately 67% cleaner than a typical coal-fired power plant. When powered by a renewable fuel, they can be 100% cleaner. Each Energy Server consists of thousands of Bloom's fuel cells--flat, solid ceramic squares made from a common sand-like "powder."
Each so-called "Bloom Box" sells for around $700,000 and includes four 25 KW units. Sridhar says the product can produce power for 9 to 10 cents a kilowatt hour, after federal and state subsidies, according to a Greentech Media report. Each unit is about the size of a shipping crate.
The company reportedly has plans to developed a smaller unit for residential deployment around the year 2020.
In addition to CEO Sridhar, the company’s board members include John Doerr, partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers; General Colin Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State; Scott Sandell, general partner, New Enterprise Associates (NEA); T.J. Rodgers, chairman, SunPower; and Eddy Zervigon, managing director, Morgan Stanley.
Bloom Energy’s investors include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, representing the firm’s first clean tech investment, as well as Morgan Stanley, NEA, and Northgate Capital.