Bloom Energy posted strong revenue results in its first-quarter 2019 financial report — a revenue story that distinguishes Bloom from the rest of the largely moribund fuel cell pack. 

But Bloom continues to lose money, and that is very much consistent with companies such as Fuel Cell Energy, Plug Power and Ballard Power in the profitless fuel cell industry.

As GTM has long chronicled, no public fuel cell firm in the history of public fuel cell firms has ever posted an annual GAAP profit. Bloom is the fuel cell revenue leader but lost $242 million in 2018 (on revenue of $742 million) and $263 million in 2017. 

Bloom's first-quarter net losses grew to $84.4 million, or 76 cents a share, on sales of $200.7 million. Bloom beat analyst estimates on losses, top-line revenue and GAAP earnings per share. Revenue was down 6 percent quarter-over-quarter and up 18.5 percent from the same quarter last year. 

Here are Bloom’s Q1 2019 financial highlights.

  • Gross profit was $15.8 million for a gross margin of 7.8 percent.
  • Bloom had a record 235 acceptances of its 100-kilowatt fuel cell units in Q1, a 41.6 percent year-over-year jump. (In most cases, an acceptance occurs when the system is turned on and producing full power.)
  • Adjusted EBITDA for Q1 was $2.1 million. 

Bloom CEO K.R. Sridhar wrote in the firm’s earnings letter that acceptance growth was "fueled by a strong diversity of customers from various industries, as well as international markets.” The 235 acceptances represented nine customers, five industries and two countries, according to Bloom.

California-based Bloom claims that its customer base includes 25 of the Fortune 100 companies, including AT&T and Home Depot.

Growth in microgrids, potential in biogas

Bloom helped power its 80th microgrid this quarter, illustrating an increasing need for resilient and reliable power for critical applications such as labs, schools, campuses, data centers and city centers.

Bloom's natural-gas-powered fuel cells can serve as a reliable primary power source for microgrids. And microgrids are finally seeing some commercial growth, after a long stay in pilot project purgatory. 

According to analysis from Navigant Research, almost 500 microgrid projects have moved into the planning and deployment phases in the past six months, predominantly in North America.

This is a big potential market for Bloom and other stationary fuel cell builders. 

Bloom’s CEO also noted that the company has "powered up" a 50-kilowatt biogas-fueled landfill project in a pilot with Southern Company, building on Bloom’s R&D investment in biogas fuels. 

At the moment, Bloom servers require clean methane, whereas using biogas from landfills presents a set of expensive challenges to fuel cell operation. According to the company, its biogas cleanup module "cost-effectively removes moisture, sulfur, siloxanes and other contaminants from biogas prior to utilization."

Bloom factoid: The Bloom fuel cell manufacturing site at the University of Delaware STAR Campus is on the grounds of an old Chrysler plant where Bob Marley once worked.

Deployments to continue to set new records

Bloom provided some limited guidance for next quarter.

  • Acceptances (100-kilowatt units): 250 to 280
  • Average sales price (dollars-per-kilowatt): $6,050 to $6,350
  • Total installed system cost (dollars-per-kilowatt): $4,875 to $5,175

Bloom shares closed Monday with a 4.1% rise to $14.72, lower than the $15 stock price at its initial public offering in 2018.