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Bloom Box: cheap and clean energy?

FlapkeFlapke Registered User
I didn't find a thread about this yet, so here it is.

Bloom Energy had a bit on 60 minutes last Sunday about the Bloom Box, a fuel-cell that apparently is capable of replacing the grid. It's supposed to be cheaper and cleaner.

Interview with the CEO, K.R. Sridhar.

Here is a link which has the 60 minutes bit and this is the company's website. Big announcement tomorrow.

Anyway, I'm highly skeptical every time something like this gets announced, but if all these big companies are already using this tech, they get $400M in investments and Colin Powell is working with these guys...man I don't know..

Flapke on

Posts

  • SniperGuySniperGuy SniperGuyGaming Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Apparently, one of those boxes a quarter of the size you see for the big building can power your entire house.

    How does that work though?

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  • FlapkeFlapke Registered User
    edited February 2010
    Well, apparently it's just a solid oxide fuel-cell , made using cheap materials and with a high efficiency.

    Flapke on
  • UncleSporkyUncleSporky Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Oh god I thought you were talking about this:
    boombloxpackshot.jpg

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  • HiravaxisHiravaxis Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Well it's certainly not cheap, that's for sure.
    But it does have a number of pluses, so I hope they are able to sell this to a number of companies so that the cost can go down.

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  • SniperGuySniperGuy SniperGuyGaming Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    What happens if yours runs out? Do you have to buy a new one, recharge it, what? I don't get it. It's just a big box and they're going IT'S FULL OF POWER. It's a fuel cell, ok, but that can power my entire house? For how long?

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  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    "Oh hai, I made this thing called a battery and it recharges and discharges with energy."

    bowen on
    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
  • El GuacoEl Guaco Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    To make things even more confusing, the reporting on this has been hysterically bad. The lady on 60 minutes said this thing creates energy "wirelessly". WTF does that even mean?

    So as near as I can tell it works like this:
    1. Bake a ceramic wafer
    2. Paint one side with special sauce A
    3. Paint the other side with special sauce B
    4. Stack a bunch of wafers together.
    5. Feed gas (or biofuel) to one side of the stack
    6. Feed oxygen to the other side of the stack
    7. Electricity and various waste gases come out

    Fuel cells are not a new idea, so it's that special sauce that more or less makes the fuel allegedly more efficient at creating "green" electricity. How efficient and how green are the things that remain to be seen.

    $400 MILLION dollars is a lot of investor money to come up with special sauce. Then you have the gall to charge clients $700k or more for each unit. Ebay bought a few(?) and "saved" $100k in electricity costs in the first year. At that rate it will take them at least 10 years to break even. Will they last that long?

    The cost of these units is going to have to drop dramatically for anyone other than a mega-corporation to care about them. In the meantime, the dude that looks like M. Night Shyamalan has a swimming pool full of money.

    El Guaco on



  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    My guess is that the waste gas is mildly melt-your-faceish, and ultimately, not a green energy.

    But this just sounds like a really fucking advanced battery to me.

    bowen on
    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
  • IconoclysmIconoclysm Registered User
    edited February 2010
    El Guaco wrote: »
    To make things even more confusing, the reporting on this has been hysterically bad.

    It was just painfully awful.

    60 minutes is just a terrible show, and I hope that vacuous bint Lesley Stahl needs to stay far away from any stories that rely on a knowledge of basic science or how reality works.

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  • shadydentistshadydentist Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    From what I can tell, its just a hydrocarbon fuel cell, so it most certainly emits CO2, at least.

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  • FlapkeFlapke Registered User
    edited February 2010
    From what I can tell, its just a hydrocarbon fuel cell, so it most certainly emits CO2, at least.

    Yes it is, but the idea is that it's more efficient than an ordinary power-plant and thus cleaner.

    Flapke on
  • electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Solid Oxide fuel cells have been around forever, and are hilariously unportable. Which is sad. Portable solid-oxide fuel cells would something like double the efficiency of your car, and probably make running it on ethanol 10x more viable.

    Of course that presumes you can keep the stack hot - which you probably can't so scratch that idea.

    These are pretty cool, but they're definitely more in the "replacement for gas-turbine power stations" which are about 60% efficient in the best designs. Definitely not really suitable for the consumer - electricity transmission is easier and more efficient then pumping gas to thousands of homes, not to mention safer.

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  • travathiantravathian Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Flapke wrote: »
    From what I can tell, its just a hydrocarbon fuel cell, so it most certainly emits CO2, at least.

    Yes it is, but the idea is that it's more efficient than an ordinary power-plant and thus cleaner.

    A non-60 minutes article I read mentioned something about it requiring fuel and O2, and the waste gases changing via what the fuel input was, but that if they were hydrocarbons that yes it'd be CO2.

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  • El GuacoEl Guaco Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    The web site is open now. It's surprisingly informative, even if they don't reveal the specific materials used in their solid oxide fuel cell.

    El Guaco on



  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    So... it's a natural gas generator/hydrogen fuel cell hybrid?

    bowen on
    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    I guess this could be potentially good for data centers though, if it can pump out the KWh it says it can.

    bowen on
    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
  • El GuacoEl Guaco Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    I guess the only thing that remains to be seen are the details that will give us an objective cost-efficiency comparison to other forms of energy production. Sure, using natural gas in a SOFC is cleaner, but we're still consuming fossil fuels to produce electricity. Coming up with enough biofuel to replace fossil fuels is a bit of a fantasy, IMHO. Still, it beats the crap out of burning coal, so it's got that going for it.

    El Guaco on



  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Yeah if you're in an area that's high on coal burning for power this is probably a great solution for the town in general. Seems to be a mini power plant that runs off natural gas.

    bowen on
    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
  • tbloxhamtbloxham Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Thats a shame, I had some hopes that these things would be a better energy storage solution than pumping water up hills.

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  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    If they're cheaper than nat-gas generators and can supply large buildings with huge power consumption, I could imagine places like hospitals using them too. Hospitals and data centers are probably going to be the only ones with that kind of chump change to dump into new power delivery systems too.

    bowen on
    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
  • japanjapan Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Interesting write up on these in The Register.

    tl;dr: Good idea for the US, where moving from coal-fired power generation to natural gas would be an effective environmental measure. Less good idea in Europe, where we're already over-dependent on natural gas for power and heat, from unstable supplies with wildly fluctuating prices.

    Running them on biogas or bioethanol would be a possibility, but there isn't enough of either about for it to be a major component of energy demand.

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