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Bloom Energy Lands Fuel Cell Contract With AT&T At 11 California Sites

Bloom Energy – Bloom Boxes

The Silicon Valley based company, Bloom Energy, is expanding its client base yet again as AT&T announces plans to install Bloom Energy fuel cells (aka ‘Bloom Boxes’) at eleven of its California sites. The move is part of AT&T’s corporate sustainability initiative, which seeks to expand the telecommunication giant’s renewable energy portfolio in the coming years.

Already, AT&T utilizes extensive solar energy for its facilities, with almost 3 million kilowatt-hours of solar generation in 2010. Its new contract with Bloom Energy will produce 7.5 megawatts of capacity, or enough to run 5,600 homes in a year. The company hopes it will halve its carbon footprint at the 11 sites and thus avoid emitting 250 million pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

As John Schinter, director of energy for AT&T stated: “Bloom Energy provided us with a solution that was not only cost-comparable but allows us to minimize environmental impacts.”

So not only does the contract with Bloom Energy help the environment, it improves AT&Ts public image and saves the company money.

What are Bloom Boxes?

For those of you unaware, Bloom Boxes are large boxes that contain modular fuel cells, which combine natural gas or biofuel with oxygen in the air. The process is an electrochemical reaction, which circumvents the need for fuel combustion. For more on the technical aspects of the Bloom Box, check out The9Billion’s feature article on Bloom Energy posted several months ago.

Bloom Energy is one of several new green tech companies that have capitalized on innovative business models. Rather than selling the actual product (the Bloom Box in this case), Bloom Energy provides electricity services. It realizes that most companies want to use electricity but not necessarily own the electricity generation hardware.

Therefore, Bloom Energy takes care of the initial capital costs for the construction of Bloom Boxes and then charges companies a monthly fee for electricity generation. Similar ideas have been implemented by other renewable companies such as SolarCity, which leases solar power to customers.

Unsurprisingly, the best states to implement Bloom Energy’s fuel cell contracts are places like California, New York, and Pennsylvania, where stronger environmental regulations and renewable energy incentives make it cheaper for prospective clients.

Although the Bloom Boxes do not emit CO₂ into the atmosphere, they do utilize natural gas and biofuels, considered by some to be problematic for future sustainability. Do you feel the use of these fuels undermines the widespread adoption of Bloom Boxes, or are the impacts minimal?

Image: Bloom Energy

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