Bloom partners with solar energy company on hydrogen production project

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Bloom Energy has partnered with a California solar energy company in a hydrogen production test.

Bloom, based in San Jose, CA, has a manufacturing site in Newark. The company will join Heliogen in the venture.

Heliogen has raised $108 million. Investors include Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

According to a Bloom Blog post, the partnership will combine Heliogen’s artificial intelligence-powered Sunlight Refinery solar power generation system with the  Bloom Electrolyzer.

The electrolyzer uses Bloom’s fuel cell technology that produces electricity to make hydrogen.

As the post notes, the technology addresses the need to store solar energy. California has at times run into the issue of producing more energy than it needs.

Using the combination of solar and hydrogen production, hydrogen could be stored and later used to produce electricity.

Bloom also has its sights set on using hydrogen in energy-intensive manufacturing processes in industries such as cement, steel, and glass manufacturing. The industrial sector accounts for 37 percent of global energy use and nearly 40 percent of CO2 emissions. 

Bloom has also partnered with South Korean companies in powering tankers and other massive ships with fuel cells rather than diesel engines.

Success will hinge on the cost of producing hydrogen. Bloom claims its technology is more cost-effective than other options. While long touted as the next big thing, hydrogen technology has struggled with cost issues.

Heliogen’s technology to capture sunlight comes in many shapes and sizes, including towers, dishes, and linear mirrors.

The surfaces capture and concentrate sunlight into steam that can be used to power steam turbines and then cool, condense and recycle the steam for repeat use.

The use of artificial intelligence is a new twist on the technology that has been used in the past to produce electricity.

The technology is best suited to the desert Southwest (Arizona, California, and Nevada), a region lacking cloudy days and rain.

 

Bloom’s technology will also be the subject of research at a national laboratory in Idaho to determine if excess electricity from a nuclear power plant can be used to produce hydrogen.

Hydrogen could comprise up to 18 percent of energy demand by 2050.

Work on the project will take place at Heliogen’s Southern California location.

Bloom investors have been on a roller coaster ride in the past year, with shares rocketing to $42 a share but now trading at $21.

The company’s fuel cell and hydrogen technology can be used in building mini-grids that could be deployed during periods of power outages and hydrogen production.

Bloom has never earned a profit but has cut production costs for its fuel cells assembled in Newark.

Delaware customers of Delmarva Power pay a surcharge for electricity amounting to $4 a month produced from Bloom fuel cells under an agreement approved by the Delaware General Assembly.

The long-term agreement was based on the assumption that electricity prices would increase and make the Bloom price more competitive.

Bloom’s Newark plant has also generated fewer jobs than projected, although higher than expected pay scales have reduced the gap.

Meanwhile, electricity prices have fallen or remained stable as energy conservation and more efficient natural gas, solar, and wind power takes the place of aging coal-fired and in a few cases nuclear plants.

Delaware will lose its last coal-fired plant in Millsboro next year. Owner NRG cited low electricity prices as the reason for the closing.

 

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