At a news conference attended by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a Silicon Valley start-up today took the wraps off a fuel cell designed to enable individual homes and businesses to generate their own power.

Bloom Energy showed off the Bloom Energy Server, which is being billed as a game changer for the clean energy industry. The solid oxide fuel cell is built to generate electricity with a mixture of oxygen and renewable or traditional fuels, all without creating any emissions.

"Bloom Energy is dedicated to making clean, reliable energy affordable for everyone in the world," said KR Sridhar, principal cofounder and CEO of Bloom Energy. "We believe that we can have the same kind of impact on energy that the mobile phone had on communications. Just as cell phones circumvented landlines to proliferate telephony, Bloom Energy will enable the adoption of distributed power as a smarter, localised energy source."

Sridhar noted that 20 corporate big hitters, including FedEx, Wal-Mart, Staples, eBay and Google already are using Bloom Boxes. Today's news conference was held at eBay's headquarters.

Google spokeswoman Niki Fenwick said that the search giant has been using four Bloom Boxes at the company's Mountain View headquarters for the past 18 months.

"The boxes are a permanent purchase," Fenwick wrote today. "We may expand our use of the fuel cells in the future, but we don't have anything to announce at this time.... We're always on the lookout for opportunities to power our operations with clean and economic power and willing to try innovative new things, and we've been pleased with our Bloom Energy experience."

She added that the four Bloom Boxes make up a 400-kilowatt installation for Google. And over the last year and a half, the project has had 98% availability and delivered 3.8 million kilowatt hours of electricity.

While Fenwick declined to say what Google paid for the boxes, Bloom Energy said each commercial sized box costs between $700,000 and $800,000.