In microgrids that power community centers and key services when a utility cuts electricity due to the heightened threat of wildfires, extreme weather, or other causes, fuel cells that function as gigantic batteries are used.
The systems can keep power flowing to essential services such as fire protection and other safety agencies, water wells, and electric medical devices for the vulnerable, and are significantly less polluting than the ubiquitous diesel generators that are activated during power outages and grid emergencies.
Bloom surpassed its 200 MW capacity fuel cell factory in Sunnyvale and established a far larger one in the neighboring city of Fremont. Jennifer Duffourg, a representative for the company, stated, “Demand is so high that we require more space, more personnel, and more machines.”
Bloom, headquartered in San Jose, California, predicts that the larger factory will generate approximately 400 additional jobs, bringing the company’s total employment to 2,000 with the addition of its newly built research and development center and its soon-to-open hydrogen development facility.
According to state officials, there is a strong need for fuel cells in California as a result of the state’s extreme heat, particularly as the sun sets and solar power is lost while demand remains high.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, D-California, stated last week at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for a 164,000-square-foot facility in Fremont, California, that “powering our homes and communities has never been more important, especially as the Golden State endures some of the most dire impacts of climate change, such as extreme heat and wildfire.”
Duffourg remarked, “Resilience has become a strategic priority.” She added, pointing to company microgrids, “We are there when the grid goes down.”
Duffourg reports that 520 of the 750 fuel cell sites in the globe are in California, with 50 of those being microgrids.
The increase in safety power outages in California has led to an increase in diesel-powered backup generators, resulting in an increase in air pollution, especially in overburdened low-income regions.
Bloom’s new facility “appears to be anchored by fuel cell technology, which is generally superior to diesel-based solutions,” according to M.Cubed partner Steven Moss.
An M.Cubed analysis indicated that 15% of California’s total electrical capacity was backed up by diesel-powered backup systems in 2013. The majority are located in data centers, government organizations, hospitals, and healthcare institutions, and frequently in close proximity to companies, families, and schools.
In contrast, fuel cells are powered by natural gas or biogas and produce significantly less greenhouse gas and toxic air emissions than diesel-powered microgrids and other fossil-fueled power plants due to the fact that the gas in a fuel cell is not burned but rather generates electricity through a chemical process.
In addition, fuel cells can be constructed and installed rapidly and do not require improved distribution lines, according to KR Sridhar, CEO of Bloom. Sridhar estimates that a typical nuclear reactor producing 1 GW takes eight to ten years to construct, but Bloom intends to manufacture more than 1 GW of fuel cells every year.
Bloom is “agnostic” as to whether the hydrogen fuel it creates through electrolysis is generated from fossil fuels or is environmentally friendly, allowing the consumer to select. Bloom stated that the fuel cell’s capacity to utilize several fuels, such as methane recovered from large dairy operations or green hydrogen, puts it in a strong position to produce “clean, robust energy” and “storable, pure hydrogen.”