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Summary:

If you know one fuel cell startup, it might be Bloom Energy — the secretive 8-year-old company with at least $250 million in financing. But another startup, 7-year-old ClearEdge Power, has begun to rack up customers for its $50,000 fuel cell device  — and it’s just raised another […]

If you know one fuel cell startup, it might be Bloom Energy — the secretive 8-year-old company with at least $250 million in financing. But another startup, 7-year-old ClearEdge Power, has begun to rack up customers for its $50,000 fuel cell device  — and it’s just raised another $11 million in equity financing, according to a filing with the SEC.

This new funding — which comes in addition to $15 million that ClearEdge secured as part of this round in August 2009 — brings the startup’s latest round to $26 million. ClearEdge’s regulatory filing, submitted on Friday, also shows an uptick in revenue, to between $1 million and $5 million, up from the $1 million or less indicated on the August filing.

Based in Hillsboro, Ore., ClearEdge says its ClearEdge5 device converts natural gas into hydrogen, ultimately producing electricity and heat for a large home (more than 4,000 square feet) or small business, at only half the cost of typical utility rates. Smaller than a refrigerator, the device is designed to connect with natural gas lines in existing or newly constructed buildings, and it reportedly can generate up to five kilowatts of power per hour.

Rather than burning natural gas, the ClearEdge5 chemically converts it into hydrogen, which then goes through a fuel cell stack to create direct current power and heat. That electricity goes through another component to produce alternating current for the building. Heat resulting from the chemical conversion can be used for water or space heating.

All of this happens with up to 90 percent efficiency (or about 35-40 percent efficiency if you exclude the captured heat and look at electricity generation alone). VP of marketing Mike Upp told Greentech Media recently, the process produces fewer emissions than if you were burning gas at home or getting electricity from a natural gas-fired power plant. Bloom Energy’s device, Upp said, is very similar.

ClearEdge has been focusing mainly on the California market, where customers can qualify for a rebate of $2.50 per watt on fuel cell equipment — or $12,500 for a ClearEdge5 unit. It seems to be in serious ramp-up mode these days, more than tripling in size to 150 employees at the end of last year, up from just 40 in May 2009, the Portland Business Journal reports. By the end of this year, CEO Russell Ford (brought on last spring) aims to double the staff again and hit $50 million in annual sales.

As of late last month, ClearEdge had raised $55 million in venture capital. As much as 95 percent of that funding, the Business Journal noted at the time, had come from Kohlberg Ventures, while Applied Ventures and Big Basin Partners have also invested in the startup.

  1. If you are going to report on power generation devices, please get the terms correct. You do not “generate five kilowatts of power per hour”, you generate five kilowatts of power, or five kilowatt-hr of energy per hour.

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    1. fixed – thanks for keeping me on my toes, alex

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  2. Alex,
    You stole my comment. For those who may be confused on this topic, a Watt is an instantaneous measure of power, it’s a rate (Joule/Sec). It’s just like when you glance at your speedometer to see how fast you are going. When you look at the speedometer, your instantaneous speed is the rate you are going (miles/hr.) In order to get the total energy something produces you need to multiply the instantaneous rate (power in watts) by the amount of time that something produced that rate at (time in hours) to get the total energy in watt-hours. (or for calculus fans, take the integral of the energy vs. time curve)

    I’ve written a blog post on the topic of “What is a kWh”:
    http://blog.mapawatt.com/2009/03/12/what-is-a-kilowatt-hour-aka-kwh-part-1/

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  3. Alex or CKmapawatt -

    I get the difference between a kW and a kWh. But I do not get the semantic difference of:
    “generate five kilowatts of power per hour”
    and
    “generate five kilowatts of power” or “five kilowatt-hr of energy per hour”.

    Are you just nit picking the author’s wording, or is there actual a real difference here that I’m missing?

    For example, to use the car analogy above, if I go 60 mph for an hour then I “go 60 miles per hour.” That is what the author said. How is saying (to apply your correction): I “go 60 miles” or I “go 60 mph of distance per hour” substantively different?

    Note – I’m not trying to bust your chops either. This is a semantic distinction many have made that has long eluded me.

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    1. Brandon, I understand what you are asking, but it’s not semantics. Let’s forget the car analogy for now and just focus on the wording.
      Saying “generate five kilowatts of power per hour” could mean that in the time frame of 1 hour a device might generate 5 kW of power for 1 second (or .1 second, or .00000000001 second), because power is an instantaneous measure. So in that hour, the device produce 5 kW for 1 second, which means it produced .0014 kWh.

      However, if you say “five kilowatt-hr of energy per hour” you mean that it produced 5 kW of power for all 3600 seconds in an hour (You could also meant that it produced 10 kW for half an hour, or 20 kW for 15 minutes in the hour, Power multiplied by time).

      Basically, energy is power multiplied by time. It isn’t semantics, it’s math.

      Does that make any sense?

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  4. [...] and heat to homes and small businesses. It’s raised about $55 million in venture capital, and most recently landed $11 million in January, with investors including Kohlberg Ventures, Applied Ventures, Big Basin Partners. ClearEdge has [...]

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  5. [...] of late last year, ClearEdge had raised $55 million in venture capital, and in January 2010 the company added on another $11 million in equity financing. Investors include Kohlberg Ventures, Applied Ventures and Big Basin [...]

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