A host of major U.S. companies are becoming customers of the new Bloom Energy Server, which was kept from the public eye until its official Feb. 24 launch but has been in use for at least 18 months at various test sites.
The Bloom fuel cell is essentially a 100-kilowatt fuel cell generator in a box that runs on a variety of fuels, including natural gas and biogas. Fuel cells convert hydrogen and oxygen into electricity via an electrochemical process that produces little in the way of emissions.
What separates this from other fuel cells is the development cost. Other fuel cells have used expensive metals like platinum, but the so-called “Bloom box” uses a silicon-based design with proprietary inks on both sides, according to a press release.
The product was launched amid much fanfare. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Colin Powell and top execs from Google and Wal-Mart were at the launch, reports the Guardian UK.
Google, one of the pilot customers, has a 400-kilowatt installation at its main campus. Over 18 months, the project delivered 3.8 million kilowatt hours of electricity.
Wal-Mart has installed two 400 KW systems at retail locations in Southern California.
Bank of America is putting in a 500 KW installation at a call center in Southern California.
Coke too is putting in a 500 KW installation, at its Odwalla plant in Dinuba, Calif. That fuel cell will run on re-directed biogas and provide up to 30 percent of the plant’s electricity needs.
Cox Enterprises is putting in a 400 KW installation at its KTVU TV station in Oakland, Calif.
E-commerce giant e-Bay is using a 500 KW installation at its San Jose, Calif., facility that will run on biogas.
FedEx has installed five 100 KW Bloom boxes at its package sorting facility in Oakland.
Staples put in a 300 KW installation at its Ontario, Calif., distribution center.
So far, Bloom Energy has received $400 million in venture capital funding. The fuel cell design was developed by KR Sridhar, a former NASA scientist who now is CEO of Bloom Energy.
Sridhar began developing the technology as a way of using solar energy and water to produce air to breath and fuel for transportation for any eventual mission to Mars.
The launch of the fuel cell has generated much hype.
Because of the stealth behind the product launch – eight years in the works – the International Business Times dubbed Bloom Energy the “Apple of clean energy.
John Doerr, a prominent venture capitalist, said that the launch was “like the Google IPO,” reports the Washington Post.