Here are two fuel cell finance factoids I've come across that are emblematic of this difficult industry.
Late last year, fuel cell firm ClearEdge Power acquired the fuel cell business of technology conglomerate United Technology Corporation (UTC). The UTC 400-kilowatt fuel cell unit has a reputation in the industry as one of the higher-performing products. Even with that reputation and history, UTC loses money.
So what did Oregon's ClearEdge pay for UTC's storied fuel cell unit? Well, actually, UTC paid $48 million for ClearEdge to take the business off its hands.
Here's an excerpt from UTC's most recent quarterly report:
According to the quarterly report, "The UTC Power disposition resulted in payments by UTC totaling $48 million, which included capitalization of the business prior to the sale and interim funding of operations as the buyer took control of a loss generating business."
MassLive reports that "UTC spent roughly $179 million in 2012 while carrying UTC Power as a 'discontinued operation' as the sale was being negotiated."
So, ClearEdge, presumably losing money already as a growth-stage startup, has added a money-losing business unit to its list of fuel cell challenges. (We covered a recent large ClearEdge-UTC fuel cell deployment by Verizon here.)
We covered the VTA fuel cell project that Bloom Energy lost earlier this week. The memorandum from VTA GM Michael Burns notes that the extended warranty for the two-Bloombox, 400-kilowatt plant would cost "approximately $425,000 per year."
OK, so 8,000 hours per year, assuming the boxes are in action about 90 percent of the time (there are a total of 8,760 hours in a year). Based on that assumption, 8,000 hours times 400 kilowatts is 3.2 million kilowatt-hours per year divided into the $425,000 warranty. The result is 13.3 cents per kilowatt-hour in warranty costs.
That seems expensive.