Silicon Valley fuel cell maker Bloom Energy is “halfway there” to breaking even and becoming profitable, according to the company’s CFO, Bill Kurtz, in an interview on Friday. In addition, Kurtz says Bloom has a path laid out to get to “profitability soon.”
Ten-year-old Bloom is a prime example of a really capital-intensive cleantech company: it could potentially be a game changer for distributed cleaner power generation, but it has needed lots of capital to scale up manufacturing. If Bloom closes this recently reported round of $150 million, it will have raised at least $800 million over its lifetime.
But Bloom Energy is also growing quickly. Kurtz said the company is doubling the amount of fuel cells that are installed in the field, as well as revenues, every six months. The biggest challenge it face is growing as fast as it can, said Kurtz.
Bloom makes fuel cells that take fuel (natural gas or biogas) and combine it with oxygen and other chemicals to create an electrochemical reaction that produces electricity. Customers buy several Bloom Energy servers that can deliver distributed power on site at a building, and can have a lower carbon footprint than grid power.
Data centers have emerged as a very important market for Bloom over the past year. The company launched a data center-focused division earlier this year, and has won over data center customers including Apple and eBay. Kurtz says one of the key reasons data center operators are interested in the fuel cell technology is so that they can be more immune to grid blackouts — eBay is using the grid as backup power and the fuel cells as primary power at its planned facility.
In addition to managing growth, Bloom Energy needs to reduce costs to get to break even. Kurtz, who says he focuses a lot on cost reduction, says “we’ve made a lot of progress in reducing costs.” NEA partner Scott Sandell, who participated in backing Bloom Energy, says the company is reducing its costs on the time schedule and at the rate that they’ve predicted.
The NEA partners, in a sit-down interview on Friday, said that Bloom Energy just recently came off an excellent quarter. The company broke ground on a factory on the east coast and plans to sell 30 MW worth of fuel cells to local utility Delmarva Power & Light. Apple’s fuel cell farm is 4.8 MW (an aerial photo of the start of it here), and eBay’s fuel cell is planned at 6 MW.
Check out this video interview with Bloom Energy about its next-generation fuel cell tech: