Bloom Energy Server unveiled, Bloom Box not for the home just yet

Photo: Bloom Energy Headquarters with Rainbow and magical Unicorn (Gizmodo)

Alternative fuel is the only solution for mankind’s current fuel dilemma. And both private and government organization’s are throwing millions of dollars at scientists with ideas on how to develop the next “Free and Clean” fuel technology.

On the cards we have another feather weight contender, Bloom Energy. With a hip name like that and with hype generated from coverage on 60 Minutes and a NASA Scientist/CEO at the helm of affairs with a name most of us can’t pronounce. We get the Bloom Box!

Of course the scientists that bring us this revolutionary fuel are focusing on big businesses before they go for households. Why? We hope the only reason is that it’s more profitable. Keep that in mind and hang in there, I’m going to connect the dots soon.

Let’s rewind a bit here. For those laymen that do not know what a fuel cell is let me enlighten you. It’s typically “Not” one big battery, but an entire power plant.

The unit is called the ES-5000 Energy Server (Bloom Box), when a chemical agent called an oxidant is poured in one side and fuel poured in from the other side – both these bodies lock on together (much like two teenagers after prom night), you get electricity with electrons flowing in the circuit architecture of whatever device the cell is plugged into.

Photo: Bloom Energy animation on how a fuel cell works.

Now fuel cells have been around before Star Trek – oh way back since the mid- eighteenth century, so all these scientists have had a while to play around and develop this technology and the majority of the crop were and still are hydrogen based fuel cells.

Stay with me it gets interesting!

However, the Bloom Box fuel cell is a solid oxide type of cell. Meaning they have an advantage over other fuel cells in that they are efficient, low cost and have lower polluting emissions. The biggest factor with this type of fuel cell is that they can get really hot up to 1800ºF whereas other fuel cells would breakdown or need maintenance.

But get this: the Bloom Box requires hydrogen in a less purer state. For example from land waste and fossil fuels. And the heat generated by it is recyclable by this fuel device.

The biggest problem with this type of cell is … yup you guessed it, price!

Isn’t cost what everything boils down to? A 100 Kilowatt hour energy server can cost you $700,000 to $800,000 total!

Given that hefty price tag I suggest we keep liaisoning with OPEC as a value chain affordable fuel supplier and don’t eradicate the combustion engine from high school physics books just yet.

But with all new technologies comes the price. What Bloom has done for the companies who can actually afford a unit is allow them to save money first. “The efficiency built into Bloom’s fuel cell systems allows a typical customer to achieve a 3-5 year financial payback making it an easy and economically sound choice.”

Photo: (Mercury News) Tech journalists at eBay's San Jose headquarters learned how Bloom, who raised $400 million from investors, plans to mass produce solid oxide fuel cells. Governor Schwarzenegger meets Bloom co-founder and CEO K.R. Sridhar.

Sure that is a good plan, but how will it help the environment? Bloom says the Energy Servers will cut CO2 emissions by 40%-100% compared to the U.S. grid (depending on their fuel choice) and virtually eliminate all SOx, NOx, and other harmful smog forming particulate emissions.

As it stands now, if you have more money than you know what to do with, Bloom Energy Servers can enable businesses to dramatically reduce their carbon footprint, but not at the cost of the bottom line. Now it’s clear as to why eBay, Google, FedEx, Staples and WalMart are on board. Saving the environment is one thing, but saving money is what really counts at the end of the quarter.

These decisions are business decisions and right now average folk like you and I are not their target market. Large scale corporations are their target, ones that can clearly afford the hefty price tag. Fuel Cell technology has been far too expensive for home use which is why only Aerospace companies using tax dollars have been the ones who can afford it. If, and that’s a big if, Bloom Energy has figured out a way to truly manufacture home units for $3,000 in the next 5-10 years, we could have ourselves a global evolution.

A new way to generate clean electricity: Mercury News


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4 Comments

  1. Peter Gray says:

    Very promising technoloy indeed … how can I get more specific info on the electrochemitry of the fuel cell?  Is there an accesible patent document or a reference in a journal?  Thanks,   Peter

  2. D Thornton says:

    I would be interested in just how much natural gas would be needed to fuel this system. Considering that NG is still the dreaded fossil fuel and this winter costs have not been quite as high as anticipated…what about costs of NG in the future? Library building is almost 30,000sq’ and would take a server the size of a car. Probably best to sit back and watch for a while.

  3. gary says:

    Of course, new technology is expensive and only affordable to the very large corporations. It’s always been that way. This technology, as all others, will drop in price as more companies buy the product.

    As sales increase, raw materials are purchased in larger quantities (with greater discounts) and as more units are built at a lower price, more units are purchased. As more units are purchased, more refinements are made and efficiency increases … and more units are purchased.

    The next thing you know, we have a new household name brand.

    To the author: it sounds like you’ve been sucking at the oil teat for some time, so you should probably wipe the oil drool off your chin.

  4. Jon Vanderjagt says:

    This is fantastic technology, a huge breakthrough in clean energy. I am an electrical contractor living in LA and I am very interested in your discovery. When the time comes, and it will very soon, I would like to be a part of your business and install these modules. I would relish the opportunity to learn more about these modules and learn the installation process so I could install these units in residential and commercial properties.

    Best Regards

    -Jon-

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