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Bloom box: Fuel-cell technology's Holy Grail or its Holy Hype?

Bloom box: Fuel-cell technology's Holy Grail or its Holy Hype? 1In the world of energy, the Holy Grail is a power source that’s inexpensive and clean, with no emissions. Well over 100 start-ups in Silicon Valley are working on it, and one of them, Bloom Energy, is about to make public its invention: a little power plant-in-a-box they want to put literally in your backyard.


On 60 Minutes tonight a brand new energy company unveiled what was billed as a potentially revolutionary energy technology called Bloom Boxes. Based on fuel-cell technologies, Stahl unveiled the formerly secret company Bloom Energy thusly:

“The idea is to one day replace the big power plants and transmission line grid, the way the laptop moved in on the desktop and cell phones supplanted landlines.”

The Bloom Box is said to be a device that can power approximately 100 houses. According to a press release, the Bloom Box was developed by NASA scientists and can be used in different ranges of temperatures which makes the way it can be used more expansive. Several competitors are also trying to develop similar devices in Silicon Valley but Bloom Energy is about to reveal the first on Feb. 24.

Bloom box: Fuel-cell technology's Holy Grail or its Holy Hype? 2

EBay’s boxes run on bio-gas made from landfill waste, so they’re carbon neutral. In addition to eBay, The 60 Minutes report mentioned several of Bloom Energy’s believers, including Walmart and Google. There was no mention of the auto industry, but other media outlets, including haven’t speculated the Bloom Box technology could be applicable to the auto industry.

A reader of read the BusinessWeek summary and posted the following:

“Bloom Energy uses Solid Oxide (SOFC) design, a high temperature fuel cell (900C). This device needs time to warm-up before becoming operational. It could be as short as minutes but could be a little longer.

“While some have advocated some sort of hybrid system for autos (use batteries during warm-up time) most agree this technology is not best suited for autos. Hence auto manufacturers are mostly concentrating on proton exchange membrane (PEMFC) technology which needs no warmup time and operates at more moderate temperatures (80C).”

Bloom Energy has received about $400 million in funding and has been developing the technology for about eight years. Kleiner Perkins and other major Venture Capitalists are backing Bloom Energy.

Google told Fortune that it has a 400 kilowatt installation from Bloom at its headquarters in Mountain View, California.

Ebay has installed Five of the Bloom boxes and they supply 15% of the power of the campus and have saved Ebay $100,000 in electricity costs in 6 months.

“So this, on five buildings, acres and acres and acres,” Stahl remarked.

“Yes. The footprint for Bloom is much more efficient,” Donahoe said. “When you average it over seven days a week, 24 hours a day, the Bloom box puts out five times as much power that we can actually use.”



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