Ballard Power, IdaTech Help Stop Power Loss in India—a Closer Look at the Deal

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hydrogen fuel-cell development and manufacturing.

For IdaTech, accepting Ballard’s offer of a partnership last year made sense because of Ballard’s fuel-cell reputation in matters of resilience and cost, Cochrane said. “Our durability and our evidence of durability is better,” he said of the fuel cells. And because Ballard focuses just on fuel cells rather than the other aspects of making generators, IdaTech did not have to devote resources to making a fuel cell. “They avoided a significant amount of development cost,” Cochrane said. Manufacturing costs are also lower at the other end because Ballard makes the cells.

The current agreement between Ballard and IdaTech is set for three years. “They have to use our fuel cells for all their products,” Cochrane said. The first 10 generators have been sent to India, with the rest to be delivered by the end of this year. In the new system, instead of long power outages, batteries will keep the network going at the beginning, with the generators kicking in a few minutes later, creating no actual gap in telecom coverage. If the generators meet expectations, 10,000 more generators will be sent, with the possibility of up to 30,000 generators put into service by 2013—a contract worth tens of millions of dollars.

At the moment, there are not a lot of hydrogen fuel cell manufacturers. “There are less than 10 companies strongly going after this market, using fuel cells,” Cochrane said, mainly because it is still early in the hydrogen fuel cell game, and industries haven’t had time to adapt to modern, efficient cells. However, he said he expects that to change in the near future, especially if the generators in India perform as expected. Big companies may start to build their capabilities in the area. For the next few years, though, it will be IdaTech, ACME, and Ballard that are ensuring wireless communication in India no matter what blackouts occur.

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Eric Hal Schwartz was an intern in Xconomy's Seattle office. Follow @

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