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Delaware Innovation Q&A: Barry Sharpe, Bloom Energy

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Bloom Energy in Newark, Del., manufactures high-tech fuel cells, which it ships to commercial customers along the East Coast and to overseas customers, including those in India and Japan.

We asked Barry Sharpe, Bloom Energy’s vice president and general manager for manufacturing, to tell us more about the company.

When did Bloom Energy open its facility in Newark, and when did you join the company?

I joined Bloom Energy in early 2012 as employee No. 1 in Delaware, and led the design and construction of Bloom Energy’s Delaware Manufacturing Center on the vacant site of the Chrysler automotive plant. Using my 23 years of experience in automotive manufacturing leadership with Ford and Toyota, I designed a custom facility for the lean manufacturing of fuel cell servers. The project was focused on creating the factory of the 21st century and facilitating the culture and manufacturing flow to groom the workforce of the 22nd century. Our campus is now known as the University of Delaware’s Science, Technology & Advanced Research (STAR) campus. Bloom Energy was the first commercial tenant.

How many people does Bloom Energy employ in Delaware?

Starting with an initial team of 20, Bloom has grown to several hundred workers in Delaware who manufacture fuel cells that are installed all over the world and for some of the biggest companies in Delaware.

How many facilities does Bloom have in Delaware?

In addition to having 31 MW (megawatts) of fuel cells installed for Delaware customers, Bloom has expanded its Delaware operations capacity to two additional facilities located within Newark, which are taking on new areas of our fuel cell operations.

Why did Bloom Energy choose to locate in Delaware? What makes the state a good location?

When it came time for Bloom to expand on the East Coast, many different locations were considered, each providing advantages and disadvantages. In addition to being strategically located in the Northeast Corridor where Bloom’s existing and future markets are, we found Delaware possessed the uniquely qualified and accomplished, skilled workforce we needed in order to successfully manufacture a high-technology product such as our fuel cells.

Bloom’s Delaware manufacturing wouldn’t be where we are today without important partners like Delaware Technical Community College and the Delaware Skills Center, as well as our neighboring partner, the University of Delaware. It is precisely this ease of ability of Delaware companies to partner and collaborate with Delaware education and skills-training programs that fosters an environment of success.

Any plans to expand in Delaware?

As Bloom’s Delaware operations have grown, so has our economic impact on local Delaware businesses. Bloom hopes to continue that positive trend by working with other Delaware manufacturers.

This article appeared in the premiere issue of Delaware Innovation Magazine, an overview of the state’s cutting edge industries and the people leading them. See the whole issue here.

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