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Bloom Energy announces new fuel cell financing options as industry expands

January 20, 2011 |  5:56 pm

Bloom Bloom Energy on Thursday announced a new financing program that cuts out the upfront cost of purchasing, installing and maintaining one of the company’s fuel cells and instead allows customers to buy only the clean electricity produced.

Chief Executive K.R. Sridhar touted the power purchase arrangement at an event at the California Institute of Technology that drew Michael Peevey, president of the California Public Utilities Commission regulatory body. See the full story here.

Also present: Arun Majumdar, director of the new federal Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, saying that the country is “in a Sputnik-like moment because business like usual is no longer an option.”

American-style energy consumption is no longer sustainable, he said, and “speed is of the essence” in ensuring that U.S. companies don’t miss out on alternative energy innovation taking place in other countries.

“We missed the IT boom, we missed the biotech boom and we’re not going to miss this one,” he said. 

KRBut Bloom isn’t the only player in a growing fuel cell industry. United Technologies Corp. and FuelCell Energy have been selling stationary fuel cells for years. In San Diego, Cox Communications now operates a large data center using UTC fuel cells powered by gas from landfills.

And fuel cells are cropping up in other forms -- as small chargers for electronic devices, as power sources for some U.S. Postal Service vans, even to run lighting on the red carpet for the Golden Globes.

Apple has a patent to develop components for fuel cells, which someday could power its devices for a month without recharging -- a function that some said could be useful for the military.

But the U.S. industry needs more supportive government policies and more partnerships with credible customers such as Google and Ebay to compete with fuel cell deployment in countries such as Japan and South Korea. Bloom, they said, is still too young to take the lead in that effort.

“Bloom has yet to demonstrate the track record of reliability, availability, maintainability and durability of its older competitors,” said Scott Samuelsen, director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center at UC Irvine. “They have to bite their lip and hold tight to see whether their product design holds up like we expect it to.”

RELATED:

Fuel cells popping up in California

Long-anticipated fuel cell unveiled

Consumer Electronics Show: Your car isn’t as cool as your kid’s fuel cell-powered one

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo (top): Bloom boxes at the CalTech campus in Pasadena. Credit: Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times

Photo (bottom): Chief Executive KR Sridhar during the CalTech announcement. Credit: Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times

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