Fuel cell maker snags $73.5 million in funding

ClearEdge Power will use its latest infusion to build sales and marketing, and expand internationally.

One of the three leading fuel cell technology companies, ClearEdge Power, has raised $73.5 million in Series E financing. The backers include existing investor Kohlberg Ventures and new ones, Artis Capital Management, Gussing Renewable Energy, and Southern California Gas Company (which is a subsidiary of Sempra Energy).

ClearEdge Power's vice president of marketing, Mike Upp, said the money will be used to help expand sales and marketing, develop international markets and address overall production costs. The Oregon company has found early adopters in California and also in Korea, mainly due to the high utility costs and strong mandates for alternative energy in those places, he said. Other states where ClearEdge Power has found traction are Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, which share the same climate of high utility rates and fair incentives.

ClearEdge Power specializes in fuel cells that range in capacity from 5 kilowatt to 60 kilowatts. Its technologies are smaller than those sold by other leading companies in the sector, Bloom Energy and UTC Power, and this is a factor that the company uses to its advantage. Upp said, for example, that a 34-square-foot installation of ClearEdge units can produce the same amount of heat and power as a 3,200-square-foot solar installation. The ClearEdge fuel cells run on natural gas.

ClearEdge Power has found traction in smaller companies (including franchise organizations like McDonalds), as well as in multi-family residential buildings. Its initial market was high-end residential usage, Upp said.

ClearEdge Power grew its revenue more than 480 percent in the second quarter of 2011, according to the company's background information. In June 2011, it was awarded $2.8 million by the Department of Energy Pacific Northwest Laboratory to support deployments across a variety of commercial markets. The money was used to help defray the cost of installation; in exchange, the organizations receiving the fuel cells are providing reference insight and feedback about the technology.

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