Sutter hospital harnesses clean fuel cells for power

[caption id="attachment_96807" align="aligncenter" width="500"] The Bloom Energy Server of fuel cells takes up the equivalent of one and half parking spaces behind the hospital but is designed to supply the power needs of the Sutter Santa Rosa Medical Center with few emissions. (credit: Sutter Health)[/caption]

SANTA ROSA -- Sutter Health's new hospital just north of Santa Rosa will leap into a clean energy future at its planned opening Oct. 25, using secretive Bloom Energy fuel cells to produce about 70 percent of its electricity needs.

The compact fuel cells, sized to generate 375 kilowatts of power continuously, occupy barely 1,000 square feet outside the Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital building. They turn natural gas and air into power in an electrochemical process without burning, releasing less carbon dioxide than electricity made from coal-burning generators.

The total output of electricity over a year will be about 3 million kilowatt-hours. The hospital plans to buy natural gas from PG&E.

[caption id="attachment_96729" align="alignleft" width="245"] K.R. Sridhar, Bloom Energy CEO[/caption]

Bloom Energy, based in Sunnyvale, was co-founded in 2001 by K.R. Sridhar, who invented a device intended for use by NASA to produce oxygen on Mars. The company added Steve Case, former chairman and CEO of AOL, to its board on Aug. 12.

The fuel cell technology fits into a world in flux: Laptops, portable and decentralized, supplanted desktop computers in offices. Smartphones eclipsed land lines tied to central phone switches. Finally, onsite fuel cells, decentralized by design, are replacing grid delivery of electricity.

[caption id="attachment_96730" align="alignright" width="207"] Lisa Amador, Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital's strategy and business development executive, says, "It's fascinating," about the Bloom Energy fuel cell project for the new hospital.[/caption]

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