Home › Forums › Refining Community › Energy › Bloom Energy Fuel Cell Boxes Take Electricity off grids
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November 4, 2010 at 1:22 am #2475
October 14, 2010 7:15 AM PDT
Bloom Energy to build a box a day
Silicon Valley start-up Bloom Energy, which makes fuel cell boxes that can power buildings, expects to be producing one of its boxes per day in the next few months, its chief executive and co-founder said.
The main limitation on the growth of the business, since it is based on a new technology, is building a supply chain to feed it, Chief Executive K.R. Sridhar said yesterday.
“As the supply chain is ramping up, then we can ramp up, and at no point will our internal capacity become the bottleneck,” he told the Reuters Climate Change and Alternative Energy Summit in San Francisco. “If we don’t plan it that way, then we get ahead of our headlights.”
K.R. Sridhar, CEO of Bloom Energy, shows off one of the finished fuel cells that goes into the Bloom box stack, at the company’s coming-out event in February 2010. (Credit: Josh Lowensohn/CNET)
The company, with about 500 employees, has 50 systems deployed and expects to have double that number working by the end of the year, said Sridhar, who wants to be producing far more boxes to meet what he calls “robust” demand.
“I’m not patient by nature,” he said. “Getting all the ducks lined up so that we can be making a lot more than one box a day, that’s what I worry about.”
Bloom’s boxes cost $700,000 to $800,000, and each provides 100 kilowatts of electricity–enough to power 100 average U.S. homes–with roughly the footprint of a parking space.
The devices, which launched in February, work by converting air and a fuel, natural gas initially, into electricity through an electrochemical process.
Early customers include Google, eBay, Coca Cola, FedEx, and Staples, and Sridhar said he was encouraged by the fact that Wal-Mart Stores was a repeat customer.
“When they power their stores with our boxes, that makes a statement,” he said.
He said other would-be buyers range from celebrities such as the king of very rich country with a large home in Los Angeles to a Kansas man who wants to keep a house he is building for his dog warm in the winter.
Sridhar, a former NASA adviser who was director of the University of Arizona’s Space Technologies Laboratory when it won several research and development contracts for Mars exploration, said his breakthrough came while doing work on technology to be deployed on the red planet.
Bloom’s box was more than eight years in development, and the company has raised more than $400 million from investors including Silicon Valley powerhouse Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Morgan Stanley, NEA, and Northgate Capital.
The Future Of Energy? Bloom Energy Boxes Already Power Google, eBay, Others
GreenTech / Feb 22, 2010 / MG Siegler
Over the past several years, there’s been no shortage of talk about alternative energy, and its potential to change the world. The problem is that most of it is just that – talk. But tonight, a report that aired on 60 Minutes showed one alternative that is not only real, it’s already being tested by companies such as Google and eBay. You simply have to watch this.
Bloom Energy are producing tiny fuel cell boxes they call “Bloom Boxes.” Two of these can apparently power a U.S. home (and only one for homes in countries that use less power). So how small are they? Look at the picture above, each device isn’t much bigger than a standard brick. Of course, they need to be surrounded by a larger unit that takes in an energy source (such as natural gas). But still, these units look to be about the size of a refrigerator and can easily fit outside of a home, providing it with clean, cheap energy.
Currently, these boxes cost some $700,000-$800,000, but eventually, founder K.R. Sridhar envisions one in every home – and he thinks he can get the cost below $3,000 for a unit to make that happen. And he’s talking a 5 to 10 year timeframe for this.
Naturally, there are plenty who are skeptical of something like this ever working. There have been no shortage of fuel cell ideas over the years, but none get their own segment on 60 Minutes showing working units. And none get to highlight the fact that they’re already installed at companies like Google, eBay, FedEx and others. In fact, four of these Bloom Boxes have apparently been powering a Google datacenter for the past 18 months. eBay says their five boxes have saved them over $100,000 in electricity costs over the past nine months.
Bloom Energy also has former Secretary of State Colin Powell on its board of directors, and he talked up the Bloom Boxes on 60 minutes tonight also. And the company has something in the neighborhood of $400 million in funding from the likes of Kleiner Perkins and others. Kleiner’s John Doerr is also featured heavily in the 60 Minutes segment, talking about why he thinks this company can change the world perhaps even in a more profound way that another company he backed, Google, has. Bloom Energy was Kleiner’s first green tech investment.
Again, just watch the video and decide for yourself whether to be skeptical or amazed at this point. Right now, I’m definitely in the latter camp considering this thing is already being tested out. Apparently, Bloom Energy is due for a big formal public unveiling on Wednesday in San Jose (they have a countdown up on their site) -expect to hear a lot more then.
November 4, 2010 at 1:22 am #5426
Here are couple updates on Bloom Energy’s Fuel Cell Boxes from Green Sector that are about to come into their own. It has been couple years since they first hit commercial sector (were in development for 8 years) and were first sold to companies like Google, Ebay, and FedEx. Bloom Energy’s progress was highlighted Feb this year when 60 minutes did a report and barley hinted at the potential for this development.
I believe a comparison for this technology could be equivalent to comparing what the Personal Computer – PC did for individual/global access compared to huge old stype IBM building size networks it replaced. These boxes could do for individual/global electrical use compared to existing huge grid infrastructure.
These “Bloom Boxes” are filled with small composite brick size fuel cells take fuel like Nat Gas & Oxygen and produce electricity without fire via electrochemical reaction. Bloom Energy is currently only making them in larger 100 KW units / Boxes (~$750k) capable of powering buildings & commercial facilities but they can be scaled down to power individual houses without any support from power grids.
These could be good applications for Individual Key Refining Units where power grid supply problems often take and keep refineries offline for long periods. One the big differences between refineries shutdown by Katrina damage and those returning back online quickly was the ability to produce their own onsite power without a grid. The economics are huge for lost production capacity within a refinery and with the elemination of steam powered pumps for energy conservation/cost reasons just increases the reliance on local power grids.
November 4, 2010 at 4:25 pm #5424
Opps – My Bad,
Got lot good comments back on Bloom Energy’s “Box” and guess it is still too much in early phase development to start celebrating its commercial breakthru. It is good there are lot big companies with strong need for reliable backup power to fund it thru its market development stage but…..
Here are a few of reply comments from more experienced contacts in power field about this application:
– I wouldn’t invest in this.
– A PhD/genius, friend who knows this system well outlined the problems with it in detail.
– It has high waste heat temps and may or may not utilize that energy….if it doesn’t, efficiency down around 30%.
– Problems also exist around difficult mechanical interface.
– Been warned away by someone with detail knowledge of the system and the VC funding it.
I still feel it has lot promise, but perhaps needs lot more time in development stage for smaller wider applications.
June 9, 2011 at 4:49 am #5047
$400 million in funding from the likes of Kleiner Perkins and others. Kleiner’s John Doerr is also featured heavily in the 60 Minutes segment, talking about why he thinks this company can change the world perhaps even in a more profound way that another company he backed, Google, has. Bloom Energy was Kleiner’s first green tech investment.
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