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Novato's Fireman's Fund Takes Big Step Toward Reducing Carbon Footprint

'Bloom boxes' installed at headquarters to produce 60 percent of complex's energy needs.

A row of silver boxes has bloomed next to the campus off San Marin Drive in Novato, but they are not massive air-conditioning units or micro-condos for its employees.

In fact, those contraptions will reduce the company’s energy consumption, not add to it.

Fireman’s Fund, Novato’s largest employer with about 1,000 workers at its company headquarters, just installed six high-tech Bloom Energy Servers that expect to reduce the firm’s carbon footprint by 15 percent. Fireman's Fund is the first company in Marin to install the devices that use solid oxide fuel cell technology to generate and store electric power.

According to Bloom, the units contain fuel cells that convert air and biogas into electricity through an electrochemical process that produces no carbon emissions. The boxes were placed there in April and are now serving up stored power for the giant office complex.

Fireman’s Fund expects to draw about 60 percent of the power needed to run the headquarters. The project is a major part of the company’s plan to cut carbon emissions by 25 percent by 2012.

President/CEO Michael LaRocco said Fireman’s Fund will not only reduce its carbon footprint with the installation of so-called Bloom Boxes but reduce its energy costs. The power from the boxes will cost well below 10 cents per kilowatt hour compared with more than 13 cents per kilowatt hour from the grid, providing a project payback within three to five years, according to Fireman's Fund projections.

“(This) is good for the environment and further demonstrates the company’s commitment to sustainability," LaRocco said in a statement.

Bank of America, Coca-Cola, E-Bay, FedEx, Google, Staples and Wal-Mart are among Bloom Energy’s customers.

This is not the first move by Fireman's Fund to reduce its carbon footprint. The Novato headquarters is one of three LEED-certified Fireman's Fund buildings in the country; the San Marin headquarters has an Energy Star certification and earned an award from the Marin Economic Commission award for its environmental qualities in 2008.

The company recycles more than 80 percent of the waste it generates and in 2008 it won the California Environmental Award and Economic Leadership Award for its sustainable practices and facilities.

Fireman’s Fund, an industry leader in providing “green” insurance, is offering coverage to companies using Bloom Boxes through its commercial insurance business.

The Keiki Clubhouse June 20, 2011 at 03:30 PM
Way to go Fireman's Fund. Keeping your promise AND helping the environment!
Brant June 20, 2011 at 06:50 PM
What is the source of the "biogas"? Do the Bloom Boxes use PG&E's natural gas pipeline as their source, with Firemans's Fund buying biogas from someone to be put into the PG&E system somewhere else? Who uses the Redwood Landfill gas? Will Novato Sanitary produce enough gas when their grease conversion program is up to speed? There is more to be learned about this!
Matt McCarron June 20, 2011 at 08:32 PM
Their should be a building code mandate for tougher Title 24 standards for energy efficient builings and retrofit projects. If you do it that way you stimuate innovation and not favor one technology over another. CA has the toughest standards in the US. The builders and developers do not like the cost increases as it cuts into their margins versus older buildings. The solution their is to put the older buildings on an update schedule and offer some type of tax credit for their investment. We do not have the luxury of time to wait until the strained resources (water, energy, land and air qulaity ) are driving up costs for our children.

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