Coronavirus Crisis: Silicon Valley green energy leader answers Gov. Newsom's call to action on ventilators

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Hospitals in the state have a dire need for ventilators. They help coronavirus patients breathe when they're unable to breathe effectively on their own.

Italy has a shortage - And doctors have had to make life-and-death choices of who gets one, who gets to live.

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That's why California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a dire call for companies to step up.

One Silicon Valley company heeded the call, in a big way. Sunnyvale-based Bloom Energy was singled out and praised by Governor Newsom in his news conferences Saturday and Monday.

Bloom is a leader in alternate energy and normally makes fuel-cell power generators.

Bloom's CEO KR Sridhar gave his first and only local interview to ABC7 News Anchor Kristen Sze.

Sridhar says when he heard the Governor's call for tech companies to reach out if they have solutions, he did so right away.

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On Friday, Governor Newsom asked Sridhar to try re-purposing some old ventilators. There are thousands that are sitting in basements unused, needing new filters, batteries, refurbishment. The original manufacturer had said it might take a month.

That wasn't good enough for Newsom or Sridhar.
The Bloom team had never worked with ventilators before, but Sridhar's team has always been on the forefront of innovating.

In 1994, NASA asked him to create a technology to convert Martian atmospheric gases to oxygen for propulsion and to support life. He built a fuel cell for NASA. That technology became the basis for his company Bloom Energy that went public in 2018.

Five hours after getting the ventilators from the state, Sridhar completed the work on the first one.

A day later, they finished 23 more.

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Governor Newsom is now asking Bloom Energy to do more. Now the company has approval to refurbish 25 more in California and expects to begin similar refurbishment work at its Newark, Delaware plant this week.

At this rate, the company estimates it could refurbish hundreds of ventilators a week, helping to meet the anticipated high demand.

The Society of Critical Care Medicine estimates that 960,000 coronavirus patients in the U.S. may need to be put on ventilators, but there are only about 200,000 such working machines available - while thousands sit idle, having reached their end-of-service life.

Sridhar is asking other tech companies to think creatively and pitch in to produce life-saving equipment during this pandemic.

If you have or know of any organizations that have out of service ventilators, would like to partner with Bloom on this effort, or to learn more, please visit www.bloomenergy.com/ventilators, email ventilators@bloomenergy.com or reach us on our hotline at +1 (888) 544-2644



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