Bloom Energy clinches lucrative fuel cell deal

Bloom Energy received approval from Delaware state regulators on a highly lucrative deal that marks the company's biggest step beyond the borders of the fuel cell incentives-rich state of California.

Bloom Energy received approval Wednesday from Delaware state regulators on a highly lucrative deal with Delmarva Power and Light, marking the company's biggest step beyond the borders of the fuel cell incentives-rich state of California.

The Delaware Public Service Commission approved a surcharge on Delmarva Power electric bills to help pay for two fuel cell generating stations and a manufacturing facility. Under the terms of the deal, Bloom will supply 30 megawatt of power capacity over 21 years. Earlier this summer, Delaware lawmakers passed legislation to allow the use of fuel cells under the state’s renewable energy mandate.  Delmarva utility customers will pay an average of $1.34 more per month, the Delaware News Journal reported.

Bloom Energy makes a solid oxide fuel cell, which are assembled into an energy server or Bloom box. The parking space-sized Bloom box — containing thousands of fuel cells — converts fuel like natural gas or biogas into electricity. The Bloom boxes have received loads of attention, largely due to it high-profile customers that include Google (GOOG), eBay (EBAY), Adobe (ADBE) and Walmart (WAL). But it’s hardly the only fuel cell company out there. In fact, its a rather crowded field that includes FuelCell Energy, Ceres Power and ClearEdge Power, to name just a few.

As part of the Delaware deal, Bloom Energy plans to build a fuel cell manufacturing plant at the site of the former Chrysler factory that will create 900 high-tech jobs. Another 600 jobs could be created through co-located suppliers. In return, Bloom Energy will receive significant 'job creation' incentives -- to the tune of $18 million -- from the state and support from the University of Delaware, which owns the old Chrysler site.

Bloom Energy has three small-scale deals with Tennessee utility EFB and California utilities PG&E and Southern California Edison. But the one approved today by Delaware state regulators, is by far and away the largest, and what I consider is Bloom’s real entrance into the utility-scale market.

The move beyond California is a big deal for Bloom Energy. Although it's no surprise that it's expanding to another state that offer subsidies such as tax credits. A Bloom box costs some $800,000 or about $8,000 per kilowatt. However, California offers a $2,500 per kilowatt subsidy. And then there's the 30 percent federal government tax credit. The pay back time on a Bloom box is about five years, CEO KR Sridhar has said in the past.

Photo: Bloom Energy


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