Last month, South Bay Congressional representatives announced that the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, or VTA, had been awarded a $750,000 federal grant to build a fuel cell facility with Bloom Energy Servers. http://www.siliconbeat.com/2012/09/18/vta-gets-750k-for-bloom-energy-fuel-cells/
Bloom is a venture-backed Sunnyvale start-up with an aggressive business development team.
The news generated a lot of interest, particularly from open government watchdogs and Bloom’s competitors in the fuel cell space. Many found it curious that the federal government was awarding a grant to a particular company.
“It is absolutely scandalous that public funds are being doled out to Bloom without an open and competitive bidding process where companies and technologies can be compared fairly,” commented one reader of SiliconBeat. “If there is no technology agnostic RFP forthcoming, somebody is playing favorites and abusing the public trust.”
The VTA has always stressed that the deal with Bloom was a deal in theory. There was never a signed contract, and many details about cost and the terms of the power purchase agreement had yet to be brought before the agency’s board of directors.
Now the VTA says it is slowing down the process and opening it up to competitors.
“With all the interest this grant announcement has received, VTA is going to pursue a competitive (Request For Proposal, or RFP) process,” said VTA spokesman Brandi Childress in an email.
Childress said that to access the grant, VTA needed to identify a specific project and Bloom was named as a “place holder,” assuming negotiations could be successfully completed and the Board approved the contract.
The VTA board of directors now plans to take this up early next year.