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Fuel-Cell Maker ClearEdge Signs $500 Million Supply Deal

By Cassandra Sweet Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES U.S. fuel-cell maker ClearEdge Power said Tuesday it has signed a $500 million supply contract with an Austrian clean-energy firm in a relatively large deal for the fledgling industry. The privately held U.S. company makes five-kilowatt stationary fuel cells that can be powered by natural gas, or gas made from bio-materials, to generate electricity. Under the $500 million contract it signed with Gussing Renewable Energy, ClearEdge plans to deliver 50 megawatts of its fuel cells, or roughly 10,000 units, to the Gussing, Austria-based company over nine years. ClearEdge said the deal and the company's plans to gradually scale up manufacturing at its Hillsboro, Ore., factory, were made possible by $73.5 million in equity financing the company raised in August. "It's huge," ClearEdge Chief Executive Russell Ford said in an interview. "It allows us to scale up the technology in the field," and "gives us the ability to immediately go to market in Austria and Germany." ClearEdge will sell the units to Gussing Renewable, which will sell them to end-use customers in Austria and Germany, Ford said. They can be sold alone or as part of a larger clean-energy package that includes gas made from bio materials to power the fuel cells, Ford said. ClearEdge is backed by Kohlberg Ventures, Big Basin Partners LP, Applied Materials Inc.'s (AMAT) venture fund, Artis Capital Management, Sempra Energy (SRE) and Gussing Renewable. Ford declined to discuss ClearEdge's revenue, except to say that the company has been growing and generating revenue. ClearEdge has sold about 375 of its fuel cells, which are similar to rival Bloom Energy's Bloom Boxes, but much smaller; each one is about the size of a refrigerator and can power two to five homes. The unit is connected to the same type of natural gas line used for a water heater and can be placed in a garage, basement or outside a building. It generates electricity 24 hours a day, seven days a week and also produces heat that can be used to make hot water or heat the interior of a building, the company said. -By Cassandra Sweet, Dow Jones Newswires; 415-439-6468;

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