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Summary:

The California Public Utilities Commission has just approved a request from PG&E and Southern California Edison to install fuel cells from Bloom Energy and FuelCell Energy on campuses in California.

Last month it looked like fuel cells weren’t such a good match for utilities in California, when an administrative law judge made a preliminary decision to reject fuel cell projects from California utilities. But oh how things change in a month — this afternoon the California Public Utilities Commission has approved a request from PG&E and Southern California Edison to install fuel cells from Bloom Energy and FuelCell Energy on campuses in California.

PG&E will install three fuel cells with a total capacity of 3 MW. One 1.4 MW fuel cell from FuelCell Energy will be installed at California State University, East Bay and two fuel cells — one 200-kW fuel cell from Bloom Energy, and a 1.4 MW fuel cell from FuelCell Energy — will be installed at San Francisco State University (SFSU). The total PG&E project will cost $20.3 million, plus operational costs of $9 million. That $20.3 million is about $1 million less than the proposal that administrative law judge Dorothy Duda initially recommended for rejection by the CPUC last month. At the time, Duda said that the fuel cell project would cost: “[T]hree times the price paid to renewable generation.”

Southern California Edison will also install three fuel cells for 3 MW on California campuses, including two FuelCell Energy systems at CSU San Bernardino and CSU Long Beach, and one Bloom Energy fuel cell at University of California, Santa Barbara. The SCE project will cost $19.1 million to install and $9 million in operation and maintenance costs.

The utilities’ fuel cell projects are pilot projects and will help the utilities learn how fuel cells can generate power for their grids. Kory Raftery spokesperson for PG&E tells us that “the whole point is to explore the fuel cell technology.” PG&E plans to have the three fuel cells installed and operational within six months to a year. PG&E filed for approval of the fuel cell program with the CPUC over a year ago.

Fuel cells are far more renewable if they are run on biogas — methane from organic waste. Bloom Energy’s claim that its fuel cells can be 100 percent carbon free relies on the use of biogas, but as we’ve pointed out, only a small amount of biogas is being prepared to be injected into California pipelines. PG&E’s Raftery told us that at this point the utility isn’t sure if biogas will be available at the sites where it will install the fuel cells.

For more research on Bloom Energy see GigaOM Pro (subscription required):

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By Katie Fehrenbacher

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  1. What the *&**?

    $60 million for 6 MW capacity? And then California is broke!! Who is accountable for these idiotic decision? I would like someone to loose his/her job if the economics of this project do not work out.

    Who would that be?

  2. I think this is wonderful news… and am glad to see chemical fuel-based distributed power generation finding validation within utility world.

    Fuel cells have gone through the entire hype cycle- and appear to be on a slow steady path towards real adoption as natgas spreads its wings.

    Obviously we need a broad approach to energy solutions, but am biased towards fuel based distributed power generation! I’m a big proponent of pushing this notion of bringing fuel and power generation closer to the end user– and moving beyond the notion of a centralized grid. Solar/Wind-to0grid is great but I think we can bring electricity to the world faster by taking a fuel and appliance based approach.

    http://www.garrygolden.net/2010/02/21/future-of-portable-personal-power-via-micro-fuel-cells/

    Garry G
    Brooklyn, NY

  3. American humanure is the bio-gas richest on the planet – even better than Asian pig-manure! Well fed Americans need to stop polluting their lakes and rivers with this sewage, and learn to collect and bio-gas it – separate it at the source, do not contaminate it, eliminate the 16 gallon of water per poop the 18th century British Crappier requires, and save the liquid manure for fertilizer value directly, bio-gas the solids for “Consumer Gas’ or fuel for fuel cells, and take the top-soil building slurry fertilizers and apply them to the fields to build a stronger America! All the “other stuff” we throw down the toilets and into the ‘Sewage” of our nation must be forbidden from this valuable resource flow! In the days of the “lean times’ coming as sure as the dollar falls in value and burgeoning Asian growth cramps our style, we will certainly regret our arrogant and wasteful ways! San Antonio Texas bio-gases for benefits to mankind –
    Americans mostly. Oslo Norway, fuels its city buses with methane from humanure – city sewage! Siemens builds the buses – and they are also used in Sweden – only Yankee Doodle holds out with great bundles of devalued dollars for more gasoline to burn in big cars going nowhere important! Even the God-like miracle worker Obama cannot go on borrowing with impunity and America will pay! First with rising gasoline prices, then all other commodities! The Great Depression has yet to set in, and no amount of fancy accounting or money printing will stop it – in fact they encourage it! America must look to bio-gassing humanure, or sewage if you prefer, as a valuable domestic source of energy, with no OPEC “tax” attached to it! All Factory Farms must bio-gas their manure, and offal too! These are OPEC “Tax” free, domestic, energy sources also! America must become “energy self-sufficient” as Asian demand pushes her to Third-World-ship with their thirst for oil! Areo-gel insulation and other “Military Secret” super-insulations will do as much as Nuclear power plants to extend Americas domestic energy base, and we must give up the piston engined, gasoline powered, motor-car entirely and go to battery powered short haul vehicles charged by electricity from Solar, Wind, Wave, Hydro, Tidal, Geothermal, Nuclear, Biogas/fuel-cell, Electric based economy. Simple fact of life in America: We have burned all our own oil! We have none left! We have 50 years of dirty coal left at present levels of growth , but the Asian fact of life is taking oil from us daily, so even our coal resources have less than 50 years to go! America faces an energy crisis of immense proportions and still wastes time and policing the world in place of consolidating the circumstances at home for a strong nation! China alone threatens our very economic stability with huge Energy developments: We buy Nuclear energy created products from China with oil based dollars in America and lose both sides of the deal! Do California regulators realize the international ramifications of their “Small-Town U.S.A.” decisions? I doubt it – if they did they would develop Solar Energy in the whole South Western U.S.A. and wait for industries to come to them! Perhaps Corporatism and Capitalism are not the right vehicle to save a floundering U.S.A. on the brink of massive energy shortages – Perhaps Obama’s strong Socialist tendencies should force a “Manhattan Project” style green energy system and master-plan to guide the rabid vulture capitalists and corporatist s – the same bastards that make Nuclear development so very very corrupt and expensive with their greed? America needs good cheap energy to keep going, and the Saudis and OPEC are about to accept “Yuan” for oil over a shrinking U.S. sawbuck, and then our foreign liquid energy specific economy will collapse like a deck of cards – only the folks with Solar installation left with enough light to read the papers proclaiming our one-fuel, oil only, follies! Fuel cells running on our own humanure will never run out of energy, as long as we are alive. No Shiite!

  4. BeenBurnedBefore Saturday, April 10, 2010

    The people of CA should be aware, public money is being spent and neither of these two companies permit public disclosure of operational data. The public has a right to be concerned about these projects.

    Bloom Energy aren’t crooks yet, but they will be the day they release their IPO and start stealing money from the public on bad ideas. For a preview of how this stock will go, look at the stock price history of Plug Power. Bloom’s technology is every bit as good as Plug’s and they’re following the same business plan.

    http://finance.yahoo.com/echarts?s=PLUG#chart1:symbol=plug;range=my;indicator=volume;charttype=line;crosshair=on;ohlcvalues=0;logscale=on;source=undefined

  5. The Bloom boxes are no more efficient than combined-cycle power plants, which can burn the same fuel (natural gas). Like Be_Anon says, it’s no wonder that California is going broke.

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