Fuel cell maker Bloom Energy has launched a new business division that aims to take advantage of the skyrocketing demand for energy-intensive data centers. The Silicon Valley startup announced this week that Peter Gross -- co-founder of EYP Mission Critical Facilities, the data center design firm that Hewlett-Packard purchased back in 2007 -- has joined Bloom Energy as vice president.
Bloom Energy makes a solid oxide fuel cell, which are assembled into an energy server or Bloom box. The parking space-sized Bloom box -- containing thousands of fuel cells -- converts fuel like natural gas or biogas into electricity. Bloom Energy has moved beyond the fuel cell-incentives-rich California marketplace in recent months, landing a highly lucrative deal with Delaware utility Delmarva Power and Light. Bloom Energy also appears to be the fuel cell provider for the 5-megawatt fuel cell-farm at Apple's $1 billion data center in Maiden, N.C., Katie Fehrenbacher of Gigaom recently reported.
In other words, Bloom Energy is branching out. And it's found an opportunity with data centers. It's a well-placed bet. A study released last summer by Jonathan G. Koomey, consulting professor at Stanford University, found that electricity used by data centers in the United States increased 36 percent from 2005 to 2010. And while the growth was slower than a 2007 EPA forecast, it's still significant.
According to a statement from Gross, Bloom will market its fuel cells to data centers as both a primary power source and as a backup supply in case the grid goes down. And because the Bloom boxes are located on site, the company can -- and is -- marketing this as another tool to keep data centers secure from outside threats. As Bloom put it in a statement, "data centers have the same relationship to information as banks do to money -- this is where the new 'treasure' of information lives and is served from to power our 21st century information age." The fuel cell provider noted that sabotage is only one threat to data centers. But weather, like an early snowstorm can knock out power and disrupt business.
Photo: Bloom Energy