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Summary:

Eight years and close to $400 million later, ultra-stealthy fuel cell maker Bloom Energy is finally ready to officially launch and ditch its “stealth-mode” status. The company started its first ever media blitz on Sunday with a video on 60 Minutes, an article in Fortune, and […]

Eight years and close to $400 million later, ultra-stealthy fuel cell maker Bloom Energy is finally ready to officially launch and ditch its “stealth-mode” status. The company started its first ever media blitz on Sunday with a video on 60 Minutes, an article in Fortune, and soon to be followed by the unveiling media event on Wednesday.

But while the public is just starting to hear the Bloom Energy name, greentech watchers have been scrambling for every little bit of information about Bloom Energy for years. Founder K.R. Sridhar told Fortune that the company is going public now because its Fortune 500 customers want to be able to brag about it as a green move. Here’s 10 things that you should know about Bloom Energy:

1). It’s doing something that many are tackling: While Bloom Energy is now positioning itself as revolutionary — that will replace the power grid no less — fuel cells have been under development by endless amounts of companies for decades. Any consumer electronics company from Samsung to Sharp, or auto maker, from Hyundai to Toyota, has researchers developing fuel cell technology. Fuel cell patents have consistently remained at the top of the list of out of greentech patents filed every year according to Clean Energy Patent Growth Index (CEPGI). The problem is that fuel cells have remained too expensive. We’ll see if Bloom can get those costs down.

2). It’s far from a residential play: Bloom’s first customers are big tech companies like eBay and Google that have been using the large Bloom Boxes, which cost between $700,000 to $800,000, to power campuses and data centers. But Sridhar tells 60 Minutes that in 5 to 10 years the company hopes to deliver a smaller Bloom box for under $3,000 for the residential market. Both that price tag and that time frame seem waaay too optimistic — I’d say at least double both estimates for a more realistic plan.

3). Kleiner’s Big Bet: Bloom Energy was famed venture capital fund Kleiner Perkin’s first foray into greentech and Sridhar tells Fortune that he was “the evangelist who opened the company’s eyes to its huge potential.” Kleiner needs a successful company in greentech to justify its investments post-dot com — will Bloom be it?

4). Bloom Energy IPO?: Even when Bloom was still in stealth an IPO was being discussed. Kleiner partner John Doerr said at an event late last year that he’d wager Bloom will take “nine years to a successful public offering.” So, I guess that means one more year to go?

5). Bloom Financials: While Doerr said late last year that Bloom now has “substantial revenues and orders,” Fortune reports that according to its VC sources Bloom lost $85 million in 2008. Well, profits haven’t stopped other greentech firms from eying IPOs (Tesla). Bloom has reportedly raised close to $400 million in funding.

6). In With Google: Bloom’s first customer was Google, and the search engine giant is reportedly using 4 Bloom Boxes to power a datacenter. It’s easy to see why Google would be eager to test out the technology: Google has been very interested in the energy industry (just recently it was approved to buy and sell electricity) and has been aggressive on innovating on energy efficiency technology for its data centers to reduce costs (see GigaOM Pro Report: Green Data Center Design Strategies). Connections also help, too: Doerr and the Kleiner folks were early backers in Google.

7). Former Mars Mission Tech: Sridhar originally came up with the idea for the Bloom Box after developing a device for NASA that would be able to create oxygen on Mars. After NASA ditched their Mars mission, Sridhar had the idea to reverse the oxygen-creating Mars box and use oxygen as the input instead. Voila the Bloom Box. Side note: that is the best founding story I’ve ever heard.

8). Political Connections: Former Secretary of State Colin Powell joined Bloom Energy’s board of directors last year reports 60 Minutes. Doerr himself is a member of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. If Bloom is looking for loans or loan guarantees from the federal government, as well as government customers, Powell and Doerr will be very handy.

9). Cali Subsidies: It’s been an easier sell to the tech companies in California because 20 percent of the cost of a Bloom Box is subsidized by the state. Add that to a 30 percent federal tax break, and the price is cut way down.

10). Magic Box: 60 Minutes reports that the magic behind the Bloom Box starts with the company baking basic sand and cutting it into little squares that are turned into a ceramic, which are then coated with green and black “inks.” Using a special process Bloom creates these ceramic discs and stacks them together interspersed with metal plates of “a cheap metal alloy.” The bigger the stack the more power the Bloom Box will create.

  1. Lorree Bayiatis Sunday, February 21, 2010

    This is great.

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  2. Good overview for those who don’t know the bloom story up till now.

    The real take away is the bloom fuel cell is completely different in materials technology to what we are used to seeing in fuel cells, which is a bunch of touchy vapor deposited reactive metals like platinum. Expensive and hard to keep running. If you have seen other fuel cells there is way more complexity and plumbing than with the bloom. Yes, everyone and his brother has been dinking with fuel cells for the last 103 years, but no one has proposed a loaf of bread sized. I mean, look at the Clear fuel cell, its like the size of a fridge. Something radically different is going with their technology. I’m not drinking their kool-aid, but c’mon. all the GEs toshibas siemens aren’t anywhere close to this. This is pretty amazing. Of course they will do an IPO. More power to ‘em and can I get in the primary offering?

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    1. will you please call or e-mail me on IPO, Thank you

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      1. UOU COULD CALL ME AT 713 720 5912

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  3. [...] later, ultra-stealthy fuel cell maker Bloom Energy is finally ready to officially launch … read the full article hereShare/Bookmark [...]

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  4. Christopher K Collins Monday, February 22, 2010

    Just a few hours after watching this on 60 mins, good job. I looked and said to my self ‘the only way someone would release this was if they already had something similar’. Anything as marketable or well connected (eg. Powell and 60 minutes) has yet to be heard of by my virgin ears. Military finally sells what its always known for the consumer, ha. My fear is that there is a better way to do this and we all jump on the bandwagon via federal support only to find a better solution or this is the best way to do this and we allow energy monopolies to absorb the technology and nothing changes for the consumer and remains to allow the free market to reinforce an elitist power structure, that can be brought to its knees by social abundant energy. People who want to profit from cheap abundant energy are far more dangerous than ‘acid rain’ from the skies. Let my skin and my children’s skin melt off before I see a world controlled by supply and demand curves or the children who feed of profits gained by exploiting resources.

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    1. …oh boy,mr.’let my childrens skin melt off’..what a looney,babbleing a-hole….NOW,my question.how much’fuel’ does it take to create the electricity?analogy,is it equel to a 2000wt honda generator in fuel,in,out,conversion?

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    2. I’m sure the DOD is planning to buy a bunch of them. Modern datacenters need these kind of distributed power systems for reliability in case of power grid failure, and the USA military has already invested in fuel cells for that purpose. Expect the military to be their first major customer.

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      1. And when the DOD does I hope it doesnt cause another consumer pushback like it did the 100mpg diesel motorcycle by Hayes Diversified Technologies that misses thier projected 06 consumer release date indefinitly by the backlogged military orders.

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  5. This is awesome indeed. I certainly hope that Bloom Energy is “for real” and not a bunch of hype. I certainly like what I read in this article:

    http://ecogeek.org/component/content/article/3079

    “Bloom Energy’s current product is a relatively inexpensive and versatile fuel cell that can power roughly 100 American homes. The devices cost $700,000 a piece an are roughly TWICE AS EFFICIENT AS NATURAL GAS POWER TRANSMITTED THROUGH THE GRID.”

    TWICE as efficient as natural gas power transmitted through the grid sounds revolutionary to me! I just hope that Bloom Energy is torture testing the heck out of their Bloom boxes and they can make them ultra reliable and long lasting. Of course, the more inexpensive the better.

    I think a $3,000 Bloom box in my house would be very do-able if you can also hook the house to the grid as a backup measure. The Bloom box is also going to need to have the capacity to “quick charge” the upcoming electric cars that are on the way. It would be awesome to be able to quick charge my Chevy Volt in just a few minutes someday. Even better would be putting a small Bloom box under the hood of my Chevy Volt as the range extender and yank out that old fashioned internal combustion engine!

    This Bloom Energy box could be great if natural gas prices stay low. I hear that America is pretty rich when it comes to natural gas these days because there’s new methods of getting it out of the ground and there’s a bunch of places in Pennsylvania and New York where there’s at least 100 years worth of supply underground.

    http://www.technologyreview.com/video/?vid=460

    If Bloom Energy’s technology is ultra reliable and cheap it’s going to freak out the electric utilities for sure. But … that’s America. When better technology comes along, it’s “out with the old, in with the NEW”.

    Man, I hope these Bloom boxes aren’t just hype and they really are revolutionary. We need some huge breakthroughs in the next 10 years. America needs another “next big thing” to come along to pull us out of this god awful recession that Wall Street caused.

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  6. I’m impressed and excited about the BloomEnergy… Good luck….

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  7. [...] Bloom Energy going to change the way we generate electrical power?  (CBS News, earth2tech, peHUB, engadget, [...]

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  8. if we [our country] would apply the resources that we put into the manhatten project, or to put that man on the moon, we can surely make this work for all of us….america

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  9. This is good news it make me happy to see the end of paying $300/m for the polluted power services for residential rental place. Amen BE

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  10. Hope it is true. Unfortunately all the informaion released are only good for the perfect scam.
    Celebrity,beutiful story from Mars project,referring to historic sucess and
    but there is nothing about the tech info.
    If you have basci chemistry knowledge, reaction between the gas phase and solid phases needs activated surface. Stacking the bloom chip together with the metal inserts, are you kidding me?
    For the greeen earth, I wish I am wrong.

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    1. I am also wishing that you … and I … are wrong. There is a sewage plant in my town [BCS, Texas] that could use a cap on the treatment tanks. With methane captured and turned into energy during the treatment process, the problem would be economically dealt with.

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    2. Sure, you are a genius and the 4 cells working for Google are ghosts

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