Are fuel cells back?
ClearEdge Power certainly thinks so -- and investors have just provided the firm with a $73.5 million round E, one of the larger cleantech funding rounds of 2011. The funding was led by new investor Artis Capital Management, along with Austria's Güssing Renewable Energy, strategic investor Southern California Gas Company, a subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE), and existing investor Kohlberg Ventures.
ClearEdge Power, with 200 employees and headquarters in Hillsboro, Oregon, is one of many aspirants looking to make technological progress and commercial inroads in the difficult fuel cell market.
The firm builds proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells that produce electricity and heat from natural gas.
The startup manufactures 5-kilowatt modules that target premium residential, small commercial and institutional stationary applications such as schools. Their PEM fuel cell incorporates a reformer and runs off of natural gas like the Bloom Energy fuel cell, although the Bloom Box is a solid oxide design, produces electricity and not heat, and comes in much larger 100-kilowatt chunks.
I spoke with Mike Upp, the VP of Marketing at ClearEdge, and he said the deals currently being closed by the firm are in the 20-kilowatt to 40-kilowatt range and involve the use of numerous 5-kilowatt boxes in a single configuration. Upp also claimed that in the "under 100-kilowatt sweet-spot" that ClearEdge services, "There is nobody else playing yet." Upp said that ClearEdge has 100 installations operating, almost all in California, about half in residential applications. But now ClearEdge is targeting light commercial by dint of its potential for more unit sales and repeat customers.