We first wrote about Bloom Energy back when there was next-to-nothing to know about them. The mystery surrounded why one of the nation's largest venture capital firms was funding a guy who had invented a new kind of ultra-efficient fuel cell.
I mean, obviously fuel cells have lots of applications...but what was the application that really brought Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers to the table? Well, we made a guess back then, that it would lie home power generation. Turns out we were 100% right on that count, and now Bloom Energy is nearly ready to unveil it's mysterious product to the world.
A recent story in the New York Times discusses Bloom at length, and says that they're looking at commercialization within one or two years. That's good for investors, who've already dumped $250 M into Bloom. But we still have to wonder what Bloom is doing that requires 200 employees and $250 M.
Here's the short answer: Bloom Energy wants your house to be a power plant. They want the natural gas line to go straight into their ultra-efficient fuel cell, and then that fuel cell will provide exactly the amount of power you need. And, in places with smart grids, Bloom might even offer you the opportunity to make a profit by selling your electricity back to the grid during peak hours.
Because Bloom's fuel cells are nearly twice as efficient as natural gas peaking plants, and have 40% of the emissions, the little box would do more than save the environment, it would save you a lot of money.
Which is what they're betting on because, at first, these fuel cell packages will certainly cost tens of thousands of dollars. But this device has the power to completely eliminate the need for new power plants in America, so it's easy to see how a venture capital company could get excited about it. I certainly am.
written by Andrew Leinonen, October 08, 2008
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