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Bloom Energy Touts Its Growth

When high profile fuel cell maker Bloom Energy officially launched at one of the buzziest cleantech media events of 2010, the company set the bar all the way up at world domination. How will Bloom deliver? Well, it needs growth first and foremost. On Friday afternoon Bloom Energy touted its expansion figures, announcing that it has quadrupled the size of its factory in Sunnyvale, Calif. to 210,000 square feet, has grown its workforce by over 70 percent in 2010, and grown by 525 percent over the past four years.

Bloom is also out there promoting how many jobs it’s creating in California — 1,000 jobs, it says — and manages to get a quote in a press release from California Governor Jerry Brown on job creation and innovation in Cali. A San Jose Mercury article from earlier this week said Bloom is actively hiring at least 45 positions right now, and reports that more than 20 former NUMMI plant employees now work at Bloom.

Expansion requires funds. Back in January VentureWire reported that Bloom “quietly raised about $100 million more in equity in the past few months,” citing two people familiar with the matter. Nine-year-old Bloom raised at least $400 million from investors including Kleiner Perkins, and NEA, before that round, making it one of the most well-funded startups in the Valley.

How long does it take a fuel cell company like Bloom to deliver? Historically speaking, they don’t. But assume Bloom is able to break through the fuel cell  market hurdle, the company thinks with scale, it can get its costs down on the product dramatically. In October of last year, Bloom said that in a few months it will have ramped up production enough to produce one Bloom box per day.

Likely to help Bloom kick start into expansion and a larger stage of commercialization, Kleiner Perkins hired a commercialization expert with a long history in the fuel cell biz last year: Jan van Dokkum. Van Dokkum was president of fuel cell maker UTC Power for seven years, worked at Siemens for 17 years, is a member of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technical Advisory Committee and was chairman of the California Fuel Cell Partnership for 2 years.

Bloom’s also trying other creative ways to boost sales. Earlier this year, Bloom launched a Bloom-Box-as-a-service product, which offers a 10-year electricity contracts (called a power purchase agreement in the utility world) with no upfront payment for the Bloom Box fuel cell itself.

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