Bloom Boxes Get Lease Option; Kaiser, Caltech Among Newest Clients

Bloom Boxes Get Lease Option; Kaiser, Caltech Among Newest Clients

Bloom Energy today unveiled the evolution of its fuel cell technology, a service called Bloom Electrons that lets companies lock in electric rates for 10 years and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with no up-front investment.

In addition to the new service, Bloom announced several new customers, including Caltech, which hosted today's announcement; medical technology company Becton Dickinson and Company (BD); and Kaiser Permanente, which followed on its recent 15 MW solar power initiative by announcing today that it will install 4 MW worth of Bloom Energy Servers in Southern California.

The Bloom Electrons service installs the fuel cell devices at a customer's location and provides energy generated from natural gas or biogas at costs competitive with or cheaper than electricity from the grid, and with potentially fewer greenhouse gas emissions from generation. If biogas supplies are available, Bloom boxes can be a 100 percent green solution, although the company is steadily trying to grow the supplies of biogas for its customers.

Offering a 10-year lease with no investment opens up the technology to organizations like schools and nonprofits, as well as companies unwilling to invest up-front for Bloom boxes.

"[Bloom Electron] gives more access to our technology; folks who already bought boxes now they can scale across a bigger footprint they don't have to put up all that capital to buy the boxes," explained Bill Thayer, Bloom Energy's VP of Sales and Marketing. "And newer customers like nonprofits, they don't have the capital to invest, so it gives them access to the technology."

Because the up-front costs for a Bloom Energy Server is a prohibitive expense for nonprofits as much as for companies that want to preserve whatever capital they have at hand in a still-tough economy, Bloom Electron offers a promising step forward.

"The immediate benefit is that [customers] get green power at less than brown-power prices," Thayer said. And the economics of Bloom fuel cells means the environmental benefits are basically an added bonus. Thayer said its customers, currently located across California, are saving between 5 and 20 percent on their energy bills immediately after switching on their Bloom boxes.

"It used to be that you had two choices: Either what's right for the environment or what's right for your business -- if you wanted to be green it'd cost you more," Thayer said. "But our mission is how do we take away that false choice and give customers, in this case, green power for prices less than brown power."

Bloom Energy unveiled its fuel cell technology in February 2010 with much fanfare, with big names on its client roster, including Google, eBay, Walmart and FedEx. Late last year, Fireman's Fund announced it would cut its carbon footprint by 15 percent through the use of Bloom boxes.

Bloom Energy estimates that its technology has to day eliminated the emissions of about 45 million pounds of CO2 equivalent. For more about companies that have installed Bloom boxes, see Is a Bloom Box a Good Investment for Your Company?