As many as 1,500 high-tech jobs could be coming to Delaware by next year, according to Gov. Jack Markell.
Markell made the announcement this morning that fuel cell maker Bloom Energy, headquartered in Sunnyvale, California, will break ground on a new factory at the old Chrysler site in Newark now owned by the University of Delaware.
But Markell added it’s not quite a done deal.
“Delmarva [Power] and Bloom both have to sign off on their final terms,” Markell said. “We’ve got to get legislation passed and the Public Service Commission has to approve it. But we are confident we can get all of them done because this is going to lead to some significant job creation here in Delaware.”
Founded in 2001, Bloom Energy develops, builds and installs Bloom Energy Servers. According to the company’s website, the servers produce 100kW of clean energy, enough to power 100 average homes or a small office building, in roughly the footprint of a standard parking space.
The company is also developing a smaller, less-expensive cell to allow homes to generate their own electricity.
Some of Bloom’s clients include Google, FedEx, Coca-Cola and WalMart.
“These are some pretty important and big companies,” Markell said. “We’ve seen it working, we’ve gone out and visited customer sites. It’s really exciting.”
The facility would employ 900 people with a potential additional 600 jobs through co-located suppliers. An estimated 350 construction jobs could also be created this year, with production beginning in mid 2012.
To help lure Bloom to the state, the Delaware Economic Development Office offered an $11.25 million grant, under the condition that Bloom hires the 900 direct employees within a 5-year period. An additional $3.75 million incentive applies to the hiring of the 600 supplier personnel. This conditional grant provides the state the authority to recapture its investment if job targets are not met or if Bloom does not maintain the jobs at its Delaware facility for up to seven years.
There is also an agreement in place that a minimum of 50 percent of the contractors be from Delaware.
After 10 years of growth in California, Bill Kurtz, Chief Commercial Officer and Chief Financial Officer for Bloom Energy, says it’s time to expand to other markets.
“The combination of Delaware’s visionary political leadership and pro- business policies, an innovative state utility, a world class university, skilled talent pool, great infrastructure and proximity to the Northeast market made Delaware our clear number one choice for our new factory site,” he said.
University of Delaware President Patrick Harker released a statement praising the announcement and said it was one of the reasons the University purchased the old Chrysler site in 2009. “It is what we call our 3+1 strategy. The ‘3’ represents research and development priorities – energy and the environment, life and health sciences, and national security and defense. The ‘1’ is the enabling infrastructure that ties it all together – extensive on-site transit oriented development”, he said.
Delmarva Power is proposing to partner with Bloom Energy to facilitate a 30 MW fuel cell installation as part of the utility’s renewable energy portfolio, pending legislative and regulatory approval.
Up to 50 acres from the old Chrysler site would be dedicated to the new Bloom facility and its supply chain. The car company shuttered the plant in 2008 and the University of Delaware acquired the property in November 2009 for its new Science and Technology Campus. DEDO is recommending the University receive a $7 million grant to create infrastructure improvements throughout the entire site.
Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Collin O’Mara says the Bloom deal will speed up the cleanup of the massive site and encourage other green companies to follow.
“With Bloom being on the site as an anchor tenant in many ways, we’ll be able to accelerate the cleanup and hopefully restore the site and make it one of the greenest development sites in the entire state,” O’Mara said.
Bloom’s Energy Servers convert natural gas, bio gas or liquid bio fuels such as ethanol to electricity through an electro-chemical reaction, rather than combustion. Traditional fossil-fuel energy production may lose 60‐70 percent of its energy during the combustion process, and up to 10 percent during transmission, so Bloom’s fuel cells are significantly more efficient. Carbon emissions and water use are drastically reduced, while harmful air pollutants are virtually eliminated. Unlike other renewable sources such as solar or wind, Bloom Energy Servers provide reliable base load distributed power generation and can run day and night, regardless of the weather.
The company has posted a video on its website demonstrating how its product works, which you can watch here.
Bloom Energy’s Bloom Box was featured last summer on CBS’ 60 Minutes program, which investigated the technology behind the box in a segment subtitled, “An Energy Breakthrough?”. It’s also drawn interest from The New York Times, which wrote about the company’s efforts in a January article titled “An Affordable Way to Buy Fuel Cell Power.” Fortune Magazine has also written about the company following one of the first interview’s with the company’s leader, K.R. Sridhar in an article called, “Is K.R. Sridhar’s ‘magic box’ ready for primetime?“.