Home Fuel Cell Maker ClearEdge Power Adds On $11M

If you know one fuel cell startup, it might be Bloom Energy — the secretive 8-year-old company with at least $250 million in financing. But another startup, 7-year-old ClearEdge Power, has begun to rack up customers for its $50,000 fuel cell device  — and it’s just raised another $11 million in equity financing, according to a filing with the SEC.

This new funding — which comes in addition to $15 million that ClearEdge secured as part of this round in August 2009 — brings the startup’s latest round to $26 million. ClearEdge’s regulatory filing, submitted on Friday, also shows an uptick in revenue, to between $1 million and $5 million, up from the $1 million or less indicated on the August filing.

Based in Hillsboro, Ore., ClearEdge says its ClearEdge5 device converts natural gas into hydrogen, ultimately producing electricity and heat for a large home (more than 4,000 square feet) or small business, at only half the cost of typical utility rates. Smaller than a refrigerator, the device is designed to connect with natural gas lines in existing or newly constructed buildings, and it reportedly can generate up to five kilowatts of power per hour.

Rather than burning natural gas, the ClearEdge5 chemically converts it into hydrogen, which then goes through a fuel cell stack to create direct current power and heat. That electricity goes through another component to produce alternating current for the building. Heat resulting from the chemical conversion can be used for water or space heating.

All of this happens with up to 90 percent efficiency (or about 35-40 percent efficiency if you exclude the captured heat and look at electricity generation alone). VP of marketing Mike Upp told Greentech Media recently, the process produces fewer emissions than if you were burning gas at home or getting electricity from a natural gas-fired power plant. Bloom Energy’s device, Upp said, is very similar.

ClearEdge has been focusing mainly on the California market, where customers can qualify for a rebate of $2.50 per watt on fuel cell equipment — or $12,500 for a ClearEdge5 unit. It seems to be in serious ramp-up mode these days, more than tripling in size to 150 employees at the end of last year, up from just 40 in May 2009, the Portland Business Journal reports. By the end of this year, CEO Russell Ford (brought on last spring) aims to double the staff again and hit $50 million in annual sales.

As of late last month, ClearEdge had raised $55 million in venture capital. As much as 95 percent of that funding, the Business Journal noted at the time, had come from Kohlberg Ventures, while Applied Ventures and Big Basin Partners have also invested in the startup.