ALTERNATIVE "GREEN TECH" ENERGY MACHINE WORKS AND SAVES MONEY SAY FIRST CUSTOMERS OF THE "BLOOM BOX" -- "60 MINUTES" SUNDAY, FEB. 21
Lesley Stahl Gets an Exclusive Look Inside Bloom Energy, One of the First and Most Expensive Clean Tech Startups in the History of Silicon Valley that is Trying to Replace the Electrical Grid With its Invention
For the past year and a half, several large California corporations have been secretly using the "Bloom Box," a potentially revolutionary fuel-cell system. Confirming this for the first time, several of the companies report this system is a more efficient, clean, and cost effective way to get electricity than off the power grid. Lesley Stahl and 60 MINUTES cameras get the first look inside the secretive California company, just days before the Bloom Energy official launch, scheduled for this Wednesday (24). Stahl's report will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES, Sunday, Feb. 21 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
John Donahoe, CEO of E-bay, confirms Bloom Boxes were installed at his corporate campus nine months ago. The company says the boxes already saved them over $100,000 in electricity bills. "It's been very successful thus far. [The Bloom Boxes] have done what they said they would do," says Donahoe. The five boxes are able to produce five times as much electricity as the 3,248 solar panels that E-bay installed on its campus roofs, says the CEO. "The footprint for Bloom is much more efficient," he tells Stahl. Google, FedEx, Staples and Wal-Mart are among the first 20clients Bloom is confirming.
Stahl is the first journalist to be allowed into the Bloom Energy lab and factory where they currently make one box a day. The boxes create electricity by a chemical process that utilizes oxygen and fuel, but involves no combustion. Bloom's founder and CEO, K.R. Sridhar, insists all the materials in the box are cheap and available in abundance. Bloom says each large Box - which can power about 100 homes - currently sells for $700-800,000. They hope within five to 10 years to roll out a smaller home version for about $3,000 a unit.
Bloom Energy was the first clean energy start-up Kleiner-Perkins, the Silicon Valley venture capital firm, invested in. They currently invest in about 50 clean tech companies. Sridhar confirms the company has received over $400 million, making it one of the most expensive startups in history. The majority of that comes from Kleiner Perkins. John Doerr, the Kleiner Perkins partner who invested in Bloom, has high hopes. "The Bloom Box is intended to replace the [electric power] grid for its customer," says Doerr. He thinks existing utility companies should not be threatened or have a problem with Bloom Energy. "The utility companies will see this as a solution. All they need to do is buy Bloom Boxes, put them in the substation for the neighborhood and sell that electricity," he says.
But there is another hurdle says Michael Kanellos, editor in chief of the Web site GreenTech Media. Even if Sridhar can mass produce his boxes and sell them cheaply enough, "The problem is then G.E. and Siemens and other conglomerates that can probably do the same thing. They have fuel cell patents," he tells Stahl.