Bangalore: Girish Paranjpe, a former joint chief executive (CEO) of Wipro Ltd’s information technology (IT) business, has joined Bloom Energy, a nine-year-old Silicon Valley company that sells a revolutionary technology for reliable, clean and affordable electricity.
Funded, among others, by technology venture capitalist Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, which has backed companies such as Google Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Netscape Communications, Bloom Energy has about 20 clients—mostly large institutions and enterprises such as Google, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), eBay Inc., Adobe Systems Inc., Coca-Cola Co. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
All these clients are in the US. Paranjpe has been tasked with the company’s global expansion as managing director of Bloom Energy International.
Career move: Girish Paranjpe.
Bloom Energy was started in 2002 by chief executive K.R. Sridhar, a former scientist at the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa). Although Nasa pioneered solid-oxide fuel cell technology, it was Bloom Energy that made it commercially viable.
Solid-oxide fuel cells use a mixture of air and a natural gas fuel to generate electricity without any combustion at a 60% conversion rate. This is “50% more efficient than any other gas-to-energy conversion technology”, Paranjpe said on Thursday.
To date, Bloom Energy has sold 120 so-called bloomboxes of 100 kilowatts (KW) each, or a total capacity of 12 megawatts (MW). These boxes have so far generated 70 million kilowatt-hours (KWh) of electricity, he said.
The company has an order book for 20MW, Paranjpe said. It is privately held and funded and does not disclose financial details.
“The potential for this technology is unlimited, with regulation surrounding natural gas and biogas pricing the only issue,” Paranjpe said. “And there is no market in the world which does not make sense.”
Citing Europe as an example, he said that advanced markets had ageing and inefficient electricity infrastructure, leading to transmission losses. Following the tsunami and earthquake in Japan in March and the fears of a disastrous leakage from a nuclear reactor, countries such as Germany are already scaling down plans for nuclear power generation, he added.
Paranjpe said such fuel cell technology has been around for a while, but no company has achieved the level of efficiency and pricing that Bloom Energy had.
In the US, electricity from the bloomboxes costs 12-15 cents per KWh (Rs5.44-6.79), while the cost of electricity from US state grids was 6-20 cents, Paranjpe said.
The technology could be used in combination with other electricity sources. The company is targeting large commercial buildings, data centres and the like.
Paranjpe spent more than 20 years with Wipro, India’s third largest software vendor.
While his network with large technology and other companies will be an asset for Bloom Energy, he himself hopes to bring to his new job the experience of being a part of Wipro’s “globalization journey”.
“In a way, Bloom is where India’s IT business was a couple of decades ago, before it began its global journey,” he said. “Second, I have lived with technology.”
Paranjpe will be based in Bangalore initially, and will start from scratch, with the hiring of a secretary, he said.
The other joint CEO at Wipro, Suresh Vaswani, has joined Dell Inc. as chairman of Dell India and executive vice-president of Dell Services.