If you have $60,000 to spare and like to show off to your neighbors, ClearEdge Power may have the product for you: a giant fuel cell that can power up your house or business, and perhaps take you entirely off the grid.
Bloom Energy burst onto the clean energy scene last year with the Bloom Energy Server (you know it as the Bloom Box), a so-called fuel cell “power plant in a box” that can run on natural gas, hydrogen, or biogas. Bloom has cornered the big business fuel cell market, with installations at eBay’s headquarters, multiple AT&T sites, Adobe’s headquarters, and more. But thus far, the company has stuck with large installations. ClearEdge Power, an Oregon-based startup that just raised $73.5 million in funding, is aiming to corner the small fuel cell installation market. The company’s fuel cells might end up in a house near you.
Like Bloom, ClearEdge makes power cells. Users put natural gas into a fuel processing system, where it is converted to hydrogen, fed to a fuel cell, put through a chemical conversion, and turned into electrical power. But ClearEdge’s cells also generate heat, which goes into a heat exchanger, where it can be used to generate hot water. The system can also use hydrogen or biogas as an input.
While Bloom’s fuel cell systems cost between $700,000 and $800,000 and produce 500 to 700 KW of power, ClearEdge’s systems retail for $56,000 (before tax incentives and rebates) and offer five KW of power, though you can string multiple units together if you need more. Customers can expect to have the system pay for itself within five to eight years. “We consider Bloom to be complementary technology,” says Mike Upp, VP of Marketing at ClearEdge. Upp believes that ClearEdge doesn’t have any major competitors at the moment.