Bloom Boxes Make Big AT&T Sale, But Sit 10th in Fuel Cell Rankings

by | Jul 12, 2011

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Eleven AT&T sites in California will install 7.5 MW of Bloom Boxes, in one of the biggest deals ever for the fuel cell maker.

Installation of the Bloom Energy Servers will begin later this year at AT&T facilities in Corona, Fontana, Hayward, Pasadena, Redwood City, Rialto, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Jose, and San Ramon. The Bloom Boxes, as they are known, should be operational by mid-2012.

They are expected to produce over 62 million kWh of energy annually – enough to power over 5,600 homes – and to reduce carbon emissions by about 50 percent compared to grid-sourced electricity, saving 250 million pounds of CO2.

AT&T, which reached nearly 3 million kWh of solar energy production in 2010, is the first telecoms company to use Bloom Boxes. The fuel cells have been installed at major companies including Wal-Mart, Google, Bank of America, Coca-Cola, eBay, FedEx, Adobe Systems, and Kaiser Permanente.

Despite being the best-known maker of fuel cells, Bloom Energy has been heavily outscored by, among others, FuelCell Energy and UTC Power, in a report that ranks the competitiveness of such manufacturers.

The “Pike Pulse Report: Prime Power Fuel Cells” by Pike Research evaluates 15 of the leading prime power station fuel cell developers and rates them on 12 criteria for strategy and execution, including go-to-market strategy, product portfolio, partnerships, innovation, reach, market share, pricing, and staying power.

FuelCell Energy attained the highest overall score in the Pike Pulse report due to a combination of a clear go-to-market strategy, geographic reach and partnerships, coupled with its cost-down systems and mass manufacturing, Pike says.

In this market, where high-quality, high-volume manufacturing is not the norm, FuelCell Energy’s ability to ramp up manufacturing based on market demand gives it a clear edge, according to research director Kerry-Ann Adamson.

UTC Power is the runner-up and is assessed as second in both strategy and execution. The highest-ranking residential prime power fuel cell manufacturer in the study is ClearEdge Power, with Ceramic Fuel Cells only one point behind.

Bloom Energy came in tenth in the ranking. The company, generally considered the market leader, fell into the report’s “challengers” category. FuelCell was the lone company in the “leaders” section. The report terms the companies ranked two to nine “contenders”.

“The prime power fuel cell market is in a fluid, vibrant phase of market growth. In the midst of this critical stage of development, we are seeing some new market trends appearing,” said Adamson. “These include the ‘electrons or hardware’ business model where adopters lease or buy the stationary fuel cell prime power unit. The benefits of both vary depending on the adopter and, interestingly, the country in which the company is operating.

“In terms of geography, we have seen some companies developing a single country-specific product, for example in the Japanese residential market. So although a company may be leading today, in terms of deployment, looking forward it could face significant barriers to entry for its product in other regions,” Adamson adds.

The top 15 vendors according to the report are as follows:

  1. FuelCell Energy
  2. UTC Power
  3. Hydrogenics
  4. POSCO Power
  5. ClearEdge Power
  6. Ceramic Fuel Cells
  7. Fuji Electric
  8. Panasonic; Toshiba Fuel Cell Power; Eneos Celltech
  9. Topsoe Fuel Cell
  10. Bloom Energy
  11. Intelligent Energy
  12. Baxi Innotech
  13. Ceres Power
  14. Hexis
  15. GS Fuel CellsTechnology

For more on stationary fuel cells, see our in-depth EL Insights report.

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