“Until now, the monthly electric bill was seen by California businesses as one of life’s certainties. That is no longer the case, thanks to more affordable renewable energy options.”—Cypress Semiconductor Corp. CEO T. J. Rodgers, paraphrasing the opening passage of the US Declaration of Independence.
Over the Independence Day weekend, several companies and organizations seized the opportunity to declare their “energy independence.” In light of the seemingly never-ending disaster in the Gulf—and right on the heels of summer’s hottest and most energy-intensive days—the timing of these statements makes sense. The costs of oil dependence continue to rise, and for many of us the only option seems to be disengaging from the system.
For Cypress Semiconductor Corp., the switch to onsite power is being conducted not just to save money or increase efficiency, but to push the company towards complete independence from the will be the public utility grid by the year 2015. The company already generates 75% of its energy onsite, thanks to three fuel cells combined with a rooftop solar installation. The fuel system includes three 100-kilowatt servers (which are described as similar in size to an average parking space) that convert air and renewable biogas into electricity via a clean electrochemical process. Inside each server are thousands of solid ceramic squares that generate enough energy to power over 100 US households.
In a statement released by the company over the weekend, Cypress CEO T. J. Rodgers says, “Using both solar and renewable-fuel-powered Bloom Energy Servers—and possibly other technologies still in their infancy—we envision a fully functional campus with 100% clean, self-sustaining electrical power. We are three-fourths of the way toward achieving our goal using technology created right here in our own backyard, by the type of visionary minds that made Silicon Valley the center of innovation.”
So what do you think? Is the goal of 100% onsite power generation impossible to achieve for most small businesses? Or can the success of Cypress’s project spur similar undertakings across the country? And does being close to a tech-savvy populace (in this case, Silicon Valley) make a difference?