After Southern California’s infamous blackout September 201, the search for a alternate base level energy source became even more important for Carlsbad biotech – Life Technologies. Life Technologies’ facility in Carlsbad requires substantial amounts of 24/7 sustained electricity due to the substantial refrigeration and freezer systems utilized for storage of DNA and other biological samples. The high electrical use made them a candidate for the alternate energy source, but the power outage brought a heightened interest to the search for an alternative so fuel cells were researched. The system Bloom engineered was quoted by Bill Thayer, VP of Bloom Energy as being 62% efficient at the time of installation tapering off to 45% at the end of the expected 20 year system life. Compare this to 32% efficiency of the utility generated power. Industries which have a 24/7 large energy consumption particularly benefit from installation of a fuel cell system. These industries include: hospitals, data centers, and refrigerated warehouses, with familiar names like Kaiser Permanente, Qualcomm, Google, University of California-Los Angeles, and University of California – San Diego. The system is also expandable. Apple recently added 5 Mega Watts to their existing 5 Mega Watt system.
Life Technologies joined this illustrious group of high energy users on Labor Day weekend when they started up their 1 Mega Watt fuel cell system consisting of 30 individual units installed by Bloom Energy. The fuel cell supplies more than 70% of the energy to the main energy intensive Life Technologies building in Carlsbad. If there is excess electricity created it is sent back to the grid. Life Technologies expects a four year payback on the system when the $4 million in rebates and incentives are included, the expected yearly savings is a hefty $1 million. This option is especially cost beneficial with the low cost for natural gas. The decision to install a 1MegaWatt system was influenced by the fact that incentives decrease after 1 Mega Watt.
The system is expected to run 30% cleaner that the utility grid and generates enough power to power 1,000 homes. The methane (natural gas) flows over the green side of the plate and it runs on the other , black side, of the plate. This electrochemical reaction creates electricity. Since the plates are created with porcelain and special inks without the use of corrosive acids, precious metals or molten materials. This makes the fuel cells 90% re-useable.
Sustainability has been an important component of the Life Technologies strategies, since the days when they were Invitrogen and committed to decrease the energy used by 2X every 4 years. Other areas where they are actively pursuing sustainability and healthy life styles is using reclaimed water for landscaping, a marked metered path for walking and recycling “disposable” material like latex gloves.