ClearEdge scores $40 million in Korea - next stop Oregon?

| Print |  Email
The Latest
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
BY JESSICA HOCH

ClearEdge, the fuel cell company headquartered in Hillsboro, made big headlines last week after announcing a $40 million deal with Korea’s LS Industrial Systems to distribute 800 of its fuel cells over the next three years to commercial businesses.  The deal marks the company's first major expansion out of its target market of California and its first foray overseas.

Despite being an Oregon company, ClearEdge has yet to target business in the state.  All but one of the fuel cells the company has installed are in California, where energy rates are higher and the tax incentives are greater. But if millions can be spent in California and Korea will Oregon be next?

ClearEdge hopes so.  Mike Upp, ClearEdge’s vice president of marketing, said the company has found renewed interest in the Oregon market in the last two months and is making strides to secure business.  Upp said he has a meeting scheduled with the Oregon Department of Energy this week.

“The biggest stumbling block for Oregon is that energy rates are so low, but we are redefining our Oregon strategy and we are certainly starting to get noticed,” said Upp.

ClearEdge's product, which is about the size of a refrigerator, takes hydrogen from gas and turns it into electricity.  The gas can come from a number of places as either natural gas, gas from decomposing garbage dumps or biomass.  It can generate 5 kW of power an hour, enough to power a small business or a large residence of more than 4,000 sqare feet.  In order to make the financial model work the cell needs to also be used to capitalize on its important byproduct: heat.  The cell generates enough heat to cover both space and water heating along with its energy output.

So why hasn’t this innovative energy technology based out of Oregon caught on here?  The company started in 2003 in Hillsboro, but to date only has one cell installed at a fire station in Oregon.  Rick Wallace is the Biofuels Program Coordinator at the Oregon Department of Energy and he said that despite tax credits he hasn’t seen much interest from anyone in the state for either residential or commercial use.

“We keep waiting to see what will happen, but there just isn’t any interest in Oregon and the technology isn't developed enough to gain any,” said Wallace.

Wallace said the technology is still too experimental and that few of the devices actually work.

But ClearEdge has plenty of paying customers to dispute that, with 25 units installed and 300 on order, plus the additional 800 units for the Korean company.  With a $56,000 price tag each that equals plenty of green for the company, which expects to hire an additional 150 employees by the end of the year.

Congressman David Wu is a fan. He recently toured the ClearEdge facility and has introduced a bill in Congress that would increase tax breaks for people who use fuel cells in their homes.  As with solar and wind power, incentives are crucial for this developing renewable energy technology. Tax breaks have been a key factor in CleanEdge's success in California, and the Korean deal resulted from a government mandate that 10 percent of the energy needs for new buildings must come from renewable sources.

Upp believes the company is ready to expand its focus outside of California now that they have had more experience.  The high energy costs and tax breaks made California an ideal first market, but other states including Oregon are beginning to follow in terms of creating incentives for renewable energy investments.

“We focused on one area and limited the geography in the beginning to get the bugs out and cleanly and clearly document our services," said Upp, "but we are here in Oregon to stay."

ClearEdge employs 150 people in Oregon and hopes to double its head count to 300 by the end of the year.

Jessica Hoch is an online reporter for Oregon Business.

 

Comments   

 
Erik
0 #1 Erik 2010-06-17 17:51:02
It would be interesting to compare environmental versus economical costs between green energy sources like Clearedge fuel cell 'fridge' with dirtier forms of energy producers
Quote | Report to administrator
 
 
Stephan Brodhead
0 #2 Cap and TradeStephan Brodhead 2010-06-19 21:14:05
So David Wu wants to pass Cap and Trade, drive up energy prices on seniors just to make fuel cell technology affordable in Oregon? Nice logic.
Quote | Report to administrator
 

More Articles

Shifting Ground

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY JOE ROJAS-BURKE

Bans on genetically modified crops create uncertainty for farmers.


Read more...

Streetfight

News
Sunday, December 07, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

On Friday, Uber switched on an app — and with one push of the button torpedoed Portland’s famed public process.


Read more...

Dan and Louis Oyster Bar opens up to a changing neighborhood

The Latest
Thursday, December 11, 2014
121114-oystervidBy MEGHAN NOLT

VIDEO: Revamping a Classic — an iconic eatery stays relevant in a changing marketplace.


Read more...

Corner Office: Sheree Arntson

January-Powerbook 2015
Saturday, December 13, 2014

Checking in with the managing director of Arnerich Massena.


Read more...

Woman of Steel

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

Tamara Lundgren tackles the challenges—without getting trampled.


Read more...

Editor's Letter: Power Play

January-Powerbook 2015
Thursday, December 11, 2014

There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace. 

Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.

This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay. 

Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.

New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”

That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!

— Linda


Read more...

Election Season

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014

We didn’t intend this issue to have an election season theme. But politics has a way of seeping into the cracks and fissures.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS