It’s been two years and time for an update on Bloom Energy. Back in February, 2010, the company made a big splash by announcing their technology and their customers.
The technology is revolutionary for the simple fact that it does not use steam-powered turbines. Every power plant in the world from coal to nuclear still uses a steam engine. Think Mark Twain on the Mississippi and you’re not far off.
This technology uses a Solid-Oxide fuel cell to convert natural gas into energy without combustion (or steam).
For decades, experts have agreed that solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) hold the greatest potential of any fuel cell technology. With low cost ceramic materials, and extremely high electrical efficiencies, SOFCs can deliver attractive economics without relying on CHP (steam). But until now, there were significant technical challenges inhibiting the commercialization of this promising new technology.
via Bloom Energy
The “low cost ceramic materials” is huge because traditional fuel cells use expensive and rare ones that America fights China for.
The other major component here is the “technical challenges” that Bloom has overcome using a term they call “R&D on steroids”.
As a venture capital backed company they have been able to rapidly iterate since 2001, resulting in some incredible efficiencies. The first is the fuel cell they launched in 2010 that requires half the natural gas for the same power from traditional sources.
The second, recently launched, allows for double the amount of power with the same cell. Put another way, with the same footprint you get 200 kw instead of 100 kw.
These innovations have been hugely popular among the right set of customers. Companies like Coca-Cola, Walmart, Google, Bank of America, AT&T, and Ebay have all installed the Bloom Servers at their offices.
That success is continuing as seen by the rapid growth in their workforce, which has increased by 70% since 2010, and added 1,000 manufacturing jobs in California. Not to mention establishing an international arm to push this technology worldwide.
Back in 2010, when the company was lauded as the next big thing many were skeptical, including myself. Here is my coverage of that press event launching Bloom Energy.
At this point, though, it seems clear that the only question is when GE will buy the company or start competing with them.