Updated: On Monday, Silicon Valley’s fuel cell maker Bloom Energy plans to break ground on its first factory on the east coast at the University of Delaware’s campus in Newark, Delaware. Bloom Energy says the factory will bring hundreds of jobs to the region and will serve as the company’s first big push outside of California, where its current factory is and most of its customers remain.
One of the anchor east coast customers will be the local Delaware utility, Delmarva Power & Light, which has about 500,000 electricity customers and plans to buy 30 MW worth of fuel cells from Bloom. That deal is absolutely massive — a game changer for Bloom — and the largest fuel cell purchase from a utility in the U.S. to date. By comparison, other large fuel cell projects in the world include an 11.2 MW project in Korea built by FuelCell Energy, and Apple’s planned 5 MW fuel cell project in North Carolina to be built by Bloom Energy.
Other customers that Bloom is announcing on the east coast include Owens Corning, Urban Outfitters, Washington Gas and AT&T (which is already a customer in California). Construction on the factory is expected to be finished in mid-2013, and Bloom will start manufacturing its fuel cells shortly after that. Fuel cells use natural gas or biogas combined with oxygen to create a chemical reaction to produce electricity. Update: Delaware Online notes that Owens Corning and AT&T are actually California customers, and are considering east coast buys.
Bloom, a decade-old company, is usually secretive about its technology, its financials and its overall plans. But the company, in a rare video interview, tells GigaOM about its next-generation technology, which includes a 200 kW fuel cell that has double the power in the same footprint as its older 100 kW system. The new 200 kW fuel cell is 20 percent more efficient than the older fuel cell, and Bloom began shipping this technology at the beginning of 2012. For a detailed look and interview with the company watch our video!