Spring 2011

Why the Energy Revolution will be the next big thing

KR Sridhar

Co-Founder and CEO of Bloom Energy

KR SridharThe world has come to realize that the world’s energy infrastructure is too dirty, unreliable, and expensive. This problem, many say, is simply not sustainable in a world projected to grow to 9 billion by 2050. However, when KR Sridhar founded Bloom Energy in 2001, Silicon Valley hadn’t yet heard of “cleantech”. So how did Sridhar convince the prominent venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) that clean energy could one day become what legendary VC John Doerr now calls “the greatest economic opportunity of the 21st century?” He appealed to the interest in big ideas that convinced KPCB to make early investments in Google, Amazon and Sun Microsystems. Sridhar convinced them that power plants would go the way of the land lines and mainframes. Power plants, Sridhar proposed, could become as “distributed” as mobile phones and laptops are today. The enabling technology: solid oxide fuel cells (“SOFCs”).

Since then, the “Bloom Box” was unveiled on 60 Minutes and has received widespread media attention for its adoption by many of the world’s most respected companies. In this talk, Dr. Sridhar will discuss the technical features and many applications of SOFCs, beginning with his experience developing the technology for NASA’s planned manned mission to Mars. He will then explain Bloom’s series of breakthrough (and often unexpected) innovations that took SOFCs from tiny prototypes in his lab, to becoming the basis for powering operations at the likes of Google, Wal-mart, and Coke. He will also address how technical innovation alone is insufficient to build a sustainable enterprise, and how creative thinking about new business models has played an essential role at Bloom.

KR Sridhar is the principal co-founder and CEO of Bloom Energy.

Prior to founding Bloom Energy, Sridhar led a team developing technologies to sustain life on Mars for NASA. For his work, Fortune Magazine cited him as "one of the top five futurists that are inventing tomorrow today". Before this Sridhar was a professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering as well as Director of the renowned Space Technologies Laboratory (STL) at the University of Arizona.

Sridhar received his M.S. in Nuclear Engineering and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; and his B.S. Degree in Mechanical Engineering with Honors from the University of Madras, India.

Sridhar has served on many technical committees, panels and boards. He has over fifty publications and is a sought-after speaker and advisor on energy and environmental issues. He is outspoken in his belief that the climate crisis we face is also a tremendous economic opportunity, that energy policy must be technology-neutral and performance-based, and that we can solve our current energy problems through a combination of technology, innovation and conservation.