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Monday, December 20, 2010, 2:37 pm

Fireman’s Fund to install fuel cells

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    Insurer to invest $5 million at Novato campus on Bloom system; to supply 60% of energy

    Michael Rocco

    NOVATO – Fireman’s Fund Insurance will be the first large North Bay company to install fuel cell servers at its headquarters.

    The 1,200-employee operation will spend $5 million on six energy servers made by Sunnyvale’s Bloom Energy.

    “We take sustainability seriously,” said Fireman’s Fund CEO Michael LaRocco. “This solution is not only good for the environment, but it makes economic sense.”

    Once installed in 2011, the energy servers will supply 60 percent of the energy used by the Fireman’s Fund two-building campus, or about 5.1 million kilowatt hours a year.

    A rendering of the Bloom Energy fuel cell system. Fireman’s Fund will install six of the units at its Novato headquarters.

    Solid oxide fuel cell technology converts a source fuel, in this case gas supplied by PG&E, into an electric current through a reaction between the fuel and an oxidant, triggered by an electrolyte. Fuel cells can operate continuously as long as the fuel and oxidant flows are maintained.

    According to Fireman’s Fund Chief Administrative Officer Greg Tacchetti, the company chose fuel cell technology over solar because of its greater efficacy.

    “The efficiency of the Bloom fuel cell gets us off the grid more effectively and with a much smaller footprint than solar. If we covered the entire parking lot with panels we’d still realize only 10 percent of the energy savings,” he said.

    The six fuel cells will occupy 5,000 square feet on a pad connected to the PG&E gas lines.

    Of the initial $5 million investment $3 million will be covered by state incentives for self generation and a federal tax credit of about 30 percent of the installation cost, said Mr. LaRocco.

    The installation will allow Fireman’s Fund to reach its goal of reducing its carbon footprint by 25 percent by 2012.

    Since 2006 the company had already reduced its carbon emissions by 16.5 percent by other green practices.

    “If you go back to 2000, we’ve reduced them by 41 percent,” said Mr. Tacchetti.

    Fireman’s Fund is the first insurance company to be named an Energy Star partner and one of the first to offer green insurance products to reward sustainability. Its buildings are LEED-certified, and the company recycles about 78 percent of its waste.

    “Bloom Energy deserves a lot of credit. It’s been key in allowing us to meet our goals,” said Mr. LaRocco.

    Other notable adopters of the Bloom Energy servers are Bank of America, Coca-Cola, E-Bay, FedEx, Google, Staples and Wal-Mart.

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    Comments

    2 Comments

    1. December 26, 2010, 4:16 am

      by James Woods

      Huh? Switching from PG&E electricity to
      PG&E natural gas isn’t exactly “getting off the grid”.
      Sure, it’s better then nothing, but it’s hardly
      newsworthy.


    2. December 26, 2010, 5:47 pm

      by Jeff Quackenbush, Business Journal Staff Reporter

      Fuel cells for distributed electricity generation are unusual in the North Bay.


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