A New Power Source in the Valley

The newest energy invention from Silicon Valley could help power the economy of the Tennessee Valley if local officials are successful in their bid to bring production of the device to Chattanooga.

Bloom-Energy-PresidentThe newest energy invention from Silicon Valley could help power the economy of the Tennessee Valley if local officials are successful in their bid to bring production of the device to Chattanooga.

The city already has tested two of the new fuel cell devices that backers say could revolutionize how electricity is made and distributed throughout the globe. During an unveiling of the newest 100-kilovolt “Bloom box” atop the EPB building downtown, local officials praised the innovative technology and urged its creator to bring production of the fuel cell device from the Silicon Valley to the Tennessee Valley.

“This Bloom box is the best example of what we have seen in the Tennessee Valley Corridor to date on real futuristic job and economic development,” said U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, the Tennessee congressman who helped secure nearly $10 million in federal grants for the project. “Our goal throughout has been that we want Tennessee to be the home for their manufacturing capability. I can’t say that we will be, but I can say that we should be.”

KR Sridhar, the founder and CEO of Bloom Energy who already has attracted more than $400 million of venture capital for his Bloom Energy, hailed Chattanooga’s “entrepreneurial can-do spirit” and local support for his invention. But the 49-year-old scientist-turned-entrepreneur said it’s still too early to pick a manufacturing site for making the new device.

For now, Dr. Sridhar said he continues to work to improve the efficiency of his solid oxide fuel cells and to cut their production cost through increased production.

The devices now are able to generate electricity at a cost of just over 13 cents per kilowatt-hour — or under 10 cents per kwh with state subsidies in California. Such prices still are nearly twice the average energy production costs for the Tennessee Valley Authority. But the Bloom boxes generate electricity from fuel and oxygen without any heat, combustion or carbon emissions.

“This is truly clean energy and doesn’t have to be connected with the grid,” Dr. Sridhar told a gathering of more than 100 community and business leaders in Chattanooga.

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Source: Chattanooga Times Free Press
Photo: Angela Lewis | Chattanooga Times Free Press
Caption: Bloom Energy President Dr. KR Sridhar holds up a fuel cell during an announcement to discuss the Bloom box at the EPB building.