Exelon Corp., the largest U.S. producer of nuclear power, agreed to buy fuel-cell power plants with 21 megawatts of capacity that Bloom Energy Corp. plans to install at 75 corporate sites in four states.
Commercial customers including AT&T Inc. will purchase the electricity, often at a premium to a utility’s grid price, for each plant’s ability to provide power locally with less pollution and more reliability than the grid, said KR Sridhar, Bloom’s co-founder and chief executive officer.
The deal shows the growing interest in fuel cell generators, which produce electricity where it’s consumed from natural gas through a chemical reaction that produces fewer carbon emissions than plants that burn fuel. It’s Exelon’s first investment in systems from Bloom, which will operate and maintain them, the Chicago-based utility-owner said. Terms weren’t disclosed.
“What Exelon and Bloom want to do is educate customers on the value of the electricity service business,” K.R. Sridhar, Bloom’s co-founder and chief executive officer, said in an interview yesterday. “Distributed generation is going to become more important. Some of our customers want extreme resiliency, and we can customize for that.”
Demand for on-site power production has surged amid rising concerns about damages from blackouts and sliding prices for solar panels, fuel cells and other technologies that can be installed at customers’ facilities.
Even utility owners, which face the threat of lost revenue when customers produce their own power, are beginning to see the value of having lots of reliable generators spread throughout their service areas, said Exelon Chief Executive Officer Chris Crane.
“Both sides have recognized the value of this technology,” Crane said in an interview yesterday. “This would be the most elegant fix.”
The systems in California, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York are expected to be completed in the next year and will produce enough power for about 11,000 homes.