Cleantech that Defies Physics, Whatevs, Here's $60M

Who needs physics when there’s money to be made? The race to discover clean energy breakthroughs is seeing its fair share of cold fusion style ideas — oh-so-much promise, but a looming gap between enthusiasm and scientific reality. In the case of BlackLight Power, a 19-year old company working on what could be a disruptive fuel cell technology, it sounds like an extremely passionate scientist came down with tunnel vision. Or something much worse.

CNN Money profiles the 25-person company based in Cranbury, N.J., which says it has a working prototype that creates a chemical reaction to alter hydrogen atoms, turning water into super cheap clean power. The company’s founder, scientist Randell Mills, says the fuel cells can provide electricity that is ridiculously cheap — less than 2 cents per kilowatt-hour — and provide 50 kilowatts of electricity, enough to power 6 or 7 houses.

Such a grand technology has allowed BlackLight to raise $60 million in funding from individual investors — the company’s Board includes Michael Jordan, former CEO of Electronic Data Systems and Westinghouse, and Neil Moskowitz, CFO of Credit Suisse First Boston. The investor list also includes Delaware utility Conectiv. Mills tells CNN BlackLight will grow to “500, maybe 1,000 employees” in the next two years (remember that’s from its current 25 employees after two decades.)

All of this is in the face of the fact that the large majority of the science community debunks BlackLight’s science, says CNN. The article lines up the powerbomb:

By positing that a molecule’s energy level can dip below its ground state, he rewrites the principles of quantum mechanics, which are widely viewed as incontrovertible. Perhaps the most widely-known critique of his theory was published by Andreas Rathke of the European Space Agency, who argues that Mills’ mathematics is flawed.

But, hey, what’s $60 million give or take? There’s an energy crisis at hand!

Wealthy individual investors can do as they like, but should probably be prepared for a worse-than-lottery odds of this being a winner. If it works, halleluyah — wait ’til 2009 to call the flatline, when the company says it will install its fuel cells in power plants.