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Production facility

Installation at eBay's offices  (Source: Bloom Energy)
Bloom Energy claims that it will be an unstoppable force in the alternative energy business and its got huge corporate support

The future of energy is now, says Bloom Energy.  At a press conference today, it unveiled its surprisingly small fuel cell "solutions" boxes. The so-called "Bloom Energy Servers" – which are about as tall as an adult male – can use virtually any hydrocarbon fuel (methane, propane, ethanol, gasoline, liquified coal) and produce energy twice as efficiently as a coal plant.  Bloom Energy is trying to revolutionize the power generation industry – the key is cutting out the middle-man (power transmission) and embracing a modular design akin to servers, the backbone of the internet.

The company's fuel cell boxes are composed of ceramic (sand derived) discs and special ink.  It garnered attention earlier this week when it was featured on the CBS news program 60 Minutes.  While many alternative energy startups have struggled to find financial backers, it already has publicized major support from some of the tech industry's biggest names -- Google, eBay, Fedex, Staples, and Walmart.

Today, the company held a special event to share the important details of its long secretive energy technology with the public.  

At the event it announced that its fuel cell generators emit 60 percent less carbon per unit energy than a traditional coal power plant.  And unlike a coal power plant, the power is produced on site so there are no grid losses.  The whole process can be carbon neutral if the hydrocarbon source is an organic such as algae or switchgrass ethanol (as opposed to fossil fuels).

K. R. Sridhar, the ex-NASA researcher who founded the company says that he initially developed the technology to power Mars colonies, but in the end it proved too compelling not to offer on Earth.  He states, "After spending a decade of working on this, I had to look back at our first home. While I was dreaming about Mars and our colonies, historically unprecedented things had happened on Earth.  For me, it was really a composite image of... a bright world and a dark world. It was the image of the world of haves and the world of have nots. Those who had the opportunity for economy growth and those who were denied that."

He said the company was founded to provide the two billion people worldwide without access to affordable power a new, affordable energy source.

The result he obtained was a fuel cell that went from "powder to power" and was "twice" as efficient as traditional power plants due to the on-site scheme eliminating grid losses.  In his designs, a single fuel cell disc produces 25 W; a "stack" composed of multiple cells produces 1 kW; a "module" produces 25 kW; and a corporate-ready "system" produces 100 kW.  A corporate "solution" (consisting of several Bloom Energy Servers or "systems") supplies up to 1 MW of power.  

The power is continuous and flexible, unlike solar or wind energy.  As Mr. Sridhar describes, "This is not when the sun shines, this is not when the wind blows... that's how this little piece of sand is different than what's been done before.""

The real flesh of Bloom Energy's plan, though, is its planned consumer debut which will be carried out over the next few years.  Bloom aims at providing consumers with $3,000 units that will produce enough power to support the average home at minimal fuel cost.  It plans to push the power generation industry towards the same model that made the internet so fabulously successful -- server-based scaling.  In fact, it refers to its products as energy "servers" -- entirely flexible, modular power units.

The units (of any size) pay back their cost within 3 to 5 years and they will operate efficiently for 10 years (at which point they would presumably be serviced with new catalyst material, i.e. new fuel cell discs).

At the event Bloom Energy mentioned several more big backers -- Coca-Cola, Bank of America, Cox -- that have embraced the company's power generators [PDF].  Many of these backers -- including John Donaho of eBay, Bill Simon of Walmart, Brian Kelly of Coca-Cola, and Google's Larry Page – spoke at the event expressing their wild enthusiasm for Bloom Energy's delivery.  Describes Donahoe, "It was almost too good to be true."

With that kind of corporate support, it's hard not to buy in to the hype.  One thing that Bloom Energy did not note was that most of the adoption thus far has been in California where tax breaks could discount the Bloom Energy Servers by as much as 20 percent.  With an additional 30 percent federal tax break for "green" investments, the costs could be cut even further.  Still, even without tax breaks, if the company's payoff numbers and reliability are as good as it says, the units could enjoy market success.  If that's true, that's great news for the startup and a rarity in this business segment.

There are still some unresolved questions, however.  What exactly is the secret "colored inks" that Bloom Energy paints its cells with and are so great at catalyzing the production of energy from hydrocarbon fuels?  Bloom Energy still hasn't revealed the formula (perhaps it's patent pending).  Still, it today offered a lot more details on its big corporate backing, its efficiency numbers, and its plan for consumer rollout.  It's definitely going to be a fun ride watching this one in years to come.



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Interesting...
By bradmshannon on 2/24/2010 2:26:57 PM , Rating: 2
So how does this really compare to power plants we already have? I don't know anything about electricity except that it hurts when you play with it.

http://www.bloomenergy.com/products/data-sheet




RE: Interesting...
By Yames on 2/24/2010 3:18:50 PM , Rating: 2
The article states these are twice as efficient as coal plants and also save energy by producing the energy on site thus eliminating grid loss.


RE: Interesting...
By ArcliteHawaii on 2/24/2010 3:29:52 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, modern coal plants are 45% efficient. Is he claiming 90% efficiency? If so, that would be incredible, as no electric generation has efficiency greater than 60% currently.

Grid losses are only 7% on average nationwide, so this isn't a huge selling point.


RE: Interesting...
By HotFoot on 2/24/2010 3:45:41 PM , Rating: 3
Only 7% grid losses is a surprisingly low number.

Not too many coal plants are going to be running at 45% efficiency. Typical is going to be more in the 30-35% range. High-temperature fuel cells have can hit 60% or better, so if one takes the lower range of efficiencies for coal plants then 'twice' is pretty close.


RE: Interesting...
By menace on 2/24/2010 5:52:02 PM , Rating: 2
Interesting how they include efficiency of the electrical delivery network (grid loss, etc) but simply ignore the inefficiencies and delivery costs that would be imposed by this paradigm change. Whether it be beefing up existing NG delivery systems, having to tanker in more LNG in from middle east, installing alternative fuel pipeline(s) or bringing back local LPG trucking in fuels and storing them on site tanks like they used to do in rural and suburb areas in the 60's.

Also assuming such technology does take off (due to continued "green" subsidies being used pick the winners) the electrical grid will become even less efficient and the economics of the conventional power grid will be stressed towards the point of collapse. So we feed subsidies to favored "green" industries to collapse the "brown" economy. Yeah, sounds like we are in for some "change".


RE: Interesting...
By Cypherdude1 on 2/25/10, Rating: -1
RE: Interesting...
By Dorkyman on 2/25/2010 11:19:28 AM , Rating: 2
If I could buy a power plant that provided monthly savings, $3k would be a trivial cost to pay. Heck, a used car is more than $3k. But I don't believe the hype. Big corporations often do something not because it's cost-effective but rather because it makes them look socially responsible or trendy. Me, I could care less. I want lower net costs, and even with huge government subsidies fuel cells don't pencil out.

Also, natural gas did indeed take a huge jump a few years ago--and then fell back just as fast. I think current costs are about 1/3 what they were a few years ago.

Finally, are you serious? 57 degrees? Do you advise your visitors to bring parkas?


RE: Interesting...
By drew494949 on 2/26/2010 3:34:14 AM , Rating: 2
Ever heard of Financing? People will finance if you can show a definite savings in excess of their power bill. Here in Florida, a normal house, in summer, has a $225 electric bill, and our state is about to approve a 35% increase to those bills.

If they can show that an homeowner with at $250/month electric bill can cut that by more than half if not most of the way, then $3,000 is only a small investment toward the goal of energy independence. The more homes and corporations you get off the grid for dependence the faster your state can become neutral on energy or even an exporter.

It's time to get Utility generation out of family budgets.


RE: Interesting...
By porkpie on 2/24/2010 4:01:46 PM , Rating: 3
It seems he's claiming about a 65-70% effiency figure, which is in the range of the best solid oxide fuel cells. So its feasible...though I'm guessing only economic at present due to the large state and federal subsidy. That may change if they can manufacture the boxes cheaper at some future point in time.

And yes, line losses average about 7% in the US. In Calif, I think they're closer to 10-12% though, thanks to that state refusing to generate its own power, and instead ship it in from out of state.


RE: Interesting...
By eachus on 2/24/2010 5:25:13 PM , Rating: 5
Putting my EPE hat on for a minute, there are a couple of interesting details omitted in the story. First, how long to start up a cold stack? I'm guessing based on the information supplied, it is probably around 2-5 minutes given the system architecture. Much longer to start cold system I suspect, but the average user won't do that often.

Net/net, my guess is that if a power company installs these, they will treat the power produced as 10% or so base load (generated basically 24/7), another 15 to 20% swing load (bringing the system to where it can operate at 100% on demand) and the remaining 70% as peaking power. (Basically instant response.)

Now let's look at cost. Current pricing is not quite competitive, but that is not a surprise. As everyone in the computer industry knows, staying on "the bleeding edge" costs. Not just in system pricing, but in the headaches you buy into with beta hardware and software. Unfortunately, someone has to be out there, or there wouldn't be any progress, Large companies invest in prototype and beta systems (for test environments) to be able to field the systems faster when the technology is ready for production use.

The stated cost of a Bloom Box today is clear, the power produced though is not. "Bloom Energy said a single one of its units would power about 100 homes and cost $700,000 to $800,000, but did not disclose how much natural gas would be needed." http://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/content/dec2... "Each Bloom Energy Server provides 100 kilowatts (kW) of power in roughly the footprint of a parking space. Each system generates enough power to meet the needs of approximately 100 average U.S. homes or a small office building." http://c0688662.cdn.cloudfiles.rackspacecloud.com/...

How does 7-8 thousand dollars per kilowatt look to a utility as a peaking power cost? High, but given low fuel costs, tolerable. Assuming Bloom can get it down to $2000 per kilowatt ($200,000 per 100kw module)? Now it is competitive with even the cheapest base load units, and lower fuel costs make it a slam dunk. (Nuclear is in the $4k and up range, solar and wind over $10k.) Can Bloom get its prices that low? Sure. ;-) I don't think a system weighs much more than 20 tons, and $5/lb. covers some pretty heavy production costs. (I'm assuming that the copper parts in the system will be the most expensive component by weight.)

So once they get system costs under $500,000 I would expect utilities to get very interested. At $350,000? Bloom should concentrate on making the modules and license the rest. Utilities will be buying them as fast as they can be produced, and companies like GE have the experience in selling into the electric power industry, plus the necessary experience to make the system life in decades, without blowing up. (There is little or no risk of that in a situation like they are selling into now. But in a "real" grid power providing installation, you have to deal with things like lightning strikes on power lines--or the module itself.)


RE: Interesting...
By porkpie on 2/24/2010 6:29:11 PM , Rating: 2
The only factor missing is maintenance costs, lifetime, etc. If these boxes have a lot of consumables with short lifetimes, they might never be feasible without the tax incentives.

In the information vacuum we're in now though, it's impossible to tell.


RE: Interesting...
By kb9fcc on 2/24/2010 7:15:22 PM , Rating: 5
Right now, anyone go out and buy a 100 kw Generac "mobile" NG generator for less than $25,000 (I'll use 25k for easier math). That's 28-35 times less than the 100 kw Bloom unit and the same size. Oh, and that's $250 a kilowatt and only weighs 2700 lbs.

Also the Bloom is "only" twice as efficient as "normal" means, and some portion of that is due to being located closer to the point of use. Well, the Generac would be on site, too, so it would also "gain" that same amount of efficiency. So now the Bloom is less than 2x as efficient. There is no way a Bloom is going to pay for itself in 3-5 years with numbers like this. Also, conveniently not considered, as others have pointed out, is the cost of NG infrastructure, etc. You'd be lucky to recover your costs in 14-18 years. That's also assuming that the Bloom units don't loss any efficient through out their lifespan.

Further, the units operate at 1000 C. Where's all the waste heat go? Do we have 100% efficient insulators now too? What's the mean time to failure at those temps? How does it fail? Does it melt through the floor, explode, or just cool off quietly?

So even at $500,000 one can buy 20000 kw of power capacity, not just 100 kw. And that can be ramped up and down in 100 kw chunks as needed. Even at your stated target of $2000 a kw, no one should be interested when the conventional means are an order of magnitude less expensive. Unless noise is your issue. They should be ideal in that department.

What's disquieting is that everyone thinks that Bloom is a miracle or something that's ready for 100% deployment. It's not. It's way overpriced for the level of efficiency and output that it produces. I see no solid evidence fuel usage or efficiency vs current methods warrant $700,000 / 100 kw prices. What is interesting is no moving parts, ultimately small point source like size. It has a niche, but it's not going to replace every current power plant. Get the price down to $50,000 / 100 kw (or less) and then they'll be replacing on-site power generators everywhere, as backup units but not main power sources.

At least until the NG runs out. We could make more methane, but aren't we trying not to, because cows, um, you know, is bad right? If it ran off hot air we could hook them up to politicians and have an infinite source of energy. :-)


RE: Interesting...
By porkpie on 2/24/2010 7:32:37 PM , Rating: 1
"Right now, anyone go out and buy a 100 kw Generac "mobile" NG generator for less than $25,000 "

Not in California, you can't...they're not legal for sale there...and I don't believe you can even operate one legally.

Go go environuts.


RE: Interesting...
By kb9fcc on 2/25/2010 3:25:31 PM , Rating: 2
While my gut reaction was to go with the "environuts" comment, it's strange I can find with a few simple searches 68 dealers of Residential, Commercial, and Industrial Generac branded generators, in California, selling exactly the type of natural gas driven generator I used as a reference. I can also find 46 dealers offering service of said same generators.

I'm going to have to assume with that many dealers selling in California that their target customer is also in California, not some other state. (There's possibly more such equipment being sold in California, as these were only those listed as selling Generac brand equipment and does not count those who sell other similar equipment but is not Generac branded).


RE: Interesting...
By porkpie on 2/25/2010 4:55:53 PM , Rating: 2
" I can find with a few simple searches 68 dealers of Residential, Commercial, and Industrial Generac branded generators, in California"

The smaller generators, sure. The larger ones are restricted by CA law. See this link:

http://www.northerntool.com/webapp/wcs/stores/serv...


RE: Interesting...
By kb9fcc on 2/25/2010 6:42:04 PM , Rating: 2
Interesting, again.

However, several observations.
1. Northern Tool is not located in California.
2. Northern Tool sells DIESEL 100 kw (and higher) with no such restrictions listed on the page. http://www.northerntool.com/webapp/wcs/stores/serv...
3. Kodiak Energy Systems which is located in California, seems to have no problem selling this same generator. http://www.kodiak-energy-systems.com/Generac-100KW...

Perhaps, companies/dealers/contractors in California can and do sell such equipment because they are regulated by California law, while a company like Northerntool which has no presence there cannot.

I'd need to see the law.


RE: Interesting...
By Calin on 2/25/2010 2:11:37 AM , Rating: 2
The operating temperature is 1000C.
However, assuming a 66% efficiency, a 25kW stack would produce internal heat in the order of 12 kW (that's in excess of 42 000 BTU per hour in heat).
The issue would not be keeping the unit at operating temperature with any kind of decent load (>20%), but to cool it.
As for the mobile natural gas generator, you pay 30 times less capital costs and twice the operating cost. I don't know how long the Generac will run, and the loss of efficiency during the life time is probably at around 10-15% (wear on turbine, increased resistance in electrical contacts, loss of magnetic efficiency).


RE: Interesting...
By eachus on 2/24/2010 4:06:34 PM , Rating: 2
ArcliteHawaii said: Yeah, modern coal plants are 45% efficient. Is he claiming 90% efficiency? If so, that would be incredible, as no electric generation has efficiency greater than 60% currently.

Grid losses are only 7% on average nationwide, so this isn't a huge selling point.


I'd love to buy a coal plant that came close to 45% without co-generation, or use of the spent steam in an industrial process. (And I have, "Been there and done that," with gas turbine generators and steam cogeneration. (But they were very inefficient when burning gasified coal.) I was also an executive for a fabric converter (dyeing, printing, etc.) where we did experiment with running one boiler at much higher steam PSI and through a turbine to reduce electricity costs. (Net result was really that we didn't use enough electricity to make it pay well. Back then, if we sold power to the power company, that might have worked. Instead, they had a nasty rate that charged us for peak usage in any one hour period in the past year. Shut the power generator down for maintenance, and we'd have to shut the whole plant down for the same period to realize any savings.)

As for 7% being negligible, power companies spend billions on capital investment to keep it that low. Bloom's approach will both reduce that number, and reduce total investment in electricity production over time.

There are other modes of operation, but I expect many of the Bloom units, and all of the initial units to run on natural gas or an equivalent. And I know of a lot of landfills which would love to supply methane to one of these units. ;-)


RE: Interesting...
By EPAstor on 2/24/2010 4:35:34 PM , Rating: 5
Lots of good points have already been made in response to this... But there's another factor. "Twice as efficient" is an inaccurate phrase; what most people mean when they say a process is twice as efficient is that it has half the inefficiency. So if a process was "twice as efficient" as a 45%-efficient process, it would actually be 72.5% efficient. Oddly enough - that's almost in the range they're claiming!

In fact, given that they're claiming efficiencies of 65-70% (believable for solid-oxide fuel cells, I think), that's equivalent to claiming an efficiency range of 30-40% for standard coal plants... which seems to make sense to me.


RE: Interesting...
By EPAstor on 2/24/2010 5:00:07 PM , Rating: 2
Whoops - sorry to reply to myself, but I missed one more correction.

Taking the low end of their claimed range, 65% efficiency, Bloom is claiming no more than 35% losses for the Bloom Box.

For the current power system, if we want twice that in losses (70%), we get the following equation for total losses (x being efficiency, (1-x) being losses): (7%)*x + (1-x) = 70%, or equivalently,

0.93*x = 1 - 0.7 = 0.3.

Solving, we find that the claim that the box is "twice as efficient" (if the box is 65% efficient) would be literally true if modern coal plants were ~32.25% efficient.

If we instead assume the box is 70% efficient, coal plants could be as much as ~43.01% efficient.

More generally, for a point-of-use system to be twice as efficient as the current grid, we would have g*c + (1 - c) = 1 - 2*x, or

(1 - g)*c = 2*x,

where g is grid losses, c is the current efficiency, and x is the efficiency of the new system.

Thus, if you can accept that coal plant efficiency is somewhere between 30% and 45%, Bloom Energy's claim is surprisingly reasonable! At least, I dismissed it out of hand at first, then did the calculations... and I was surprised.


RE: Interesting...
By Calin on 2/25/2010 2:14:32 AM , Rating: 2
Today the temperature is 0 degrees.
Tomorrow is twice as cold.
What is the temperature tomorrow?


RE: Interesting...
By camylarde on 2/25/2010 6:19:18 AM , Rating: 2
-137°C or so, don't make me search for the absolute zero in celsius ^^


RE: Interesting...
By MyK on 2/25/2010 6:59:14 AM , Rating: 1
Depends. Will your wife eat double the ice cream she ate today or is just your mother in law coming over?


RE: Interesting...
By bwave on 2/25/2010 10:04:41 AM , Rating: 2
0c would be -8.9c
0f would be -33f


RE: Interesting...
By BostonBeaner on 2/25/2010 11:13:44 AM , Rating: 2
First, you'd have to tell us at what temperature "cold" begins so that we'd know how many degrees Zero is "below cold".


RE: Interesting...
By jRaskell on 2/25/2010 3:56:38 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Today the temperature is 0 degrees.
Tomorrow is twice as cold.
What is the temperature tomorrow?


Cold is a relative term with no frame of reference. Hence there is no twice as cold, or twice as hot without first defining some arbitrary frame of reference.


RE: Interesting...
By namechamps on 2/24/2010 5:01:20 PM , Rating: 2
Key thing it doesn't say it is TWICE AS EFFICIENT. The claim is half the emissions. Given coal has high emissions that is kinda meaningless.

Another article indicates electrical efficiency is 48%.
So it is no more efficient than natural gas turbine however you are saving on transmission losses, retail markup, and transmission costs (as in $$$). Generation is only roughly half the per kWh cost of electrical power.

I ran some numbers and at $10 per ccf for Natural gas we are talking about $0.07 per kWh. Not too bad.

However the real advantage is it a 100KW unit will generate 368,600 BTU of heat. If that can be captured at say 80% efficiency (heat exchanger) that is 300,000 BTU of "free heat".

That would reduce overall energy costs (electricity + water heating + building heating).

So if you can use all the heat that brings you down to around $0.05 to $0.06 per kwh.


RE: Interesting...
By Calin on 2/25/2010 2:17:30 AM , Rating: 2
Considering that the working temperature is 1000C, your waste heat can be hot enough for any practical purposes. So yes, you have a better system than a natural gas turbine (more electricity, higher temperature for the waste heat)


RE: Interesting...
By erple2 on 2/25/2010 6:27:27 PM , Rating: 2
Does that mean you can use the waste heat to drive a steam turbine to generate more electricity? Maybe that's where the "twice as efficient" comes in?


RE: Interesting...
By alanore on 3/2/2010 1:35:07 PM , Rating: 2
Apparently you can't use these for co-gen, all the heat is need to keep the reaction going.


RE: Interesting...
By Bruneauinfo on 2/25/2010 8:25:07 AM , Rating: 2
they are twice as efficient DUE TO the fact they eliminate grid losses.


RE: Interesting...
By MarchTheMonth on 2/24/2010 3:16:13 PM , Rating: 2
How you should really ask that question is compared to the different kinds of power plants we have to choose from.
Coal power plants are the dirtiest spewing out a lot of pollutants, but their efficiency is usually very high (40-60% of thermal energy converted to electrical energy).

Nuclear power plants produce 0 carbon emissions, but have efficiency around 33% thermal -> electrical.

Natural gas I would presume is similar to coal, and the rest I do not know off hand.


RE: Interesting...
By tastyratz on 2/24/2010 3:46:18 PM , Rating: 2
Interesting.
I would like to see a full expected cost of ownership breakdown as well as actual raw efficiency numbers.
If they are claiming 90% efficiency... I am assuming that is just thermal efficiency - what about cost benefit/Roi breakdowns? These numberless claims are wow factors likely based on only arbitrary statistics.
3-5 year payback for consumers... what consumers? based on what cost of electricity? what cost of fuel? what average electricity usage? Does this consider maintenance costs (if they exist and and what they are?)

Too many bold claims with too little supporting data to win me over personally.


RE: Interesting...
By bhieb on 2/24/2010 4:29:51 PM , Rating: 1
A good clue is the CA roll-out first. This is the biggest RED flag IMO. It screams tax-subsidized, and as the article alluded to it is. Can it stand on it's own without them, I highly doubt (so there goes any longevity).

More importantly do you want your tax money going to fund a bunch of private power plants or perhaps some newer coal/nuclear/solar/wind/natural gas plants. I would be absolutely shocked if they could obtain efficiency's with the home unit that would surpass the relatively minor grid losses. It would be a good back up generator, but I don't think every home generating it's own electricity is the most effective model. Now if they want to build a plant sized version, and can improve over existing tech, then by all means use my tax dollars. Just don't see the everyone generating their own thing as good though.


RE: Interesting...
By namechamps on 2/24/2010 5:04:02 PM , Rating: 2
Coal is nowhere near 60% efficient. 30%-35% is normal.

Then figure in 7% transmission losses you get about 29% to 33% coal to plug.


RE: Interesting...
By porkpie on 2/24/10, Rating: 0
RE: Interesting...
By porkpie on 2/24/2010 6:36:10 PM , Rating: 2
Whups! My apologies...I read your post too fast, and thought you simply subtracted the second percentage.

(my life, my life for an edit feature)


RE: Interesting...
By tat tvam asi on 2/24/2010 4:32:12 PM , Rating: 2
If it generates DC and if Data centers directly use DC instead of converting to AC, that may cut down overall losses. They also save on the cost of inverter and its maintenance.


RE: Interesting...
By mars2k on 2/24/2010 8:03:47 PM , Rating: 2
So they say these run on hydrocarbon. What about Hydrogen?
Produce Hydrogen using solar cells and run these at night off the hydrogen.


RE: Interesting...
By porkpie on 2/24/2010 8:17:18 PM , Rating: 2
Unfortunately, solar even during the daytime is crushingly expensive. At night, the losses from producing the hydrogen, then oxidizing it in a fuel cell would raise the cost another 300% at least.


RE: Interesting...
By kgstew on 2/24/2010 9:53:36 PM , Rating: 2
One of Blooms Patents is for an Solid Oxide Regerative Fuel Cell which can take electricity combined with water and CO2 and make fuel that can be stored and reused later. The current systems to do support this feature but is something they are planning on.


RE: Interesting...
By Jeffk464 on 2/24/2010 8:59:56 PM , Rating: 3
If he was working at NASA when he first started working on it, does that mean NASA gets a cut? And don't people always say that we get nothing back from the ton of money we spend on NASA?


Too good to be true?
By alanore on 2/24/10, Rating: 0
RE: Too good to be true?
By Anoxanmore on 2/24/2010 2:49:01 PM , Rating: 5
So... honest question.

How is Walmart, Ebay, Google, Coca-Cola not large enough?

Those four names right there, including Cox & Bank of America, are huge companies.

I bet they have the backing now, which is why we are hearing about it.


RE: Too good to be true?
By PAPutzback on 2/24/2010 3:01:19 PM , Rating: 2
This is going to be huge in California to help with rolling blackouts. My guess is that is one reason that they are focus there right now. Then roll it out to Vegas.


RE: Too good to be true?
By alanore on 2/24/2010 4:06:26 PM , Rating: 2
...that sounds like a few big compaines to me.

What percentage is that compared to those running their own power generation technologies such as gas turbine with combined heat and power?

They mention that this is twice the efficency of coal. Coal yields are are 30-35% of the energy. Combined cycle gas is around 60%, which is almost twice that of exsiting coal. Which must be close to what they are saying bloombox efficency is.

So far the people investing in this are in california, where they are getting 50% discounts. Even then Google is only trialing this technology, and one of the units has failed on them.


RE: Too good to be true?
By Drag0nFire on 2/24/2010 4:03:15 PM , Rating: 4
This is a well documented phenomenon known as "Pascal's Wager".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal%27s_Wager

The big companies jump on the bandwagon because there is little cost to them, but potentially big rewards as early investors if the devices are successful. This has happened countless times with scientists purporting to have solved the mysteries of "cold fusion" for use in generating power.

I'm not saying that this technology is necessarily bunk. I'm just saying that the endorsement of the big companies should not take the place of scientific validation.


RE: Too good to be true?
By Suntan on 2/24/2010 4:29:42 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
How is Walmart, Ebay, Google, Coca-Cola not large enough?


Large is one thing. Useful in the real world is another.

As fancy as it is for big companies to put a little asterisk on their quarterly reports telling their shareholders how neat and environmentally concise there new little toy on campus is, it still is not all that relevant compared to being useful for ordinary people.

When they can show me a couple of hospitals that they have signed up as paying customers (or any other operation that just doesn’t have the luxury of dallywacking around with novel little systems in favor of stuff that just flat out works reliably and is cost effective) then I’ll start to appreciate the feat.

-Suntan


RE: Too good to be true?
By ArcliteHawaii on 2/24/2010 3:11:22 PM , Rating: 2
They didn't have to struggle. They got $400m in start up cash from a variety of venture capital firms. Consider that Google got about 1/10th of that when they started up.

I do agree, though. I am curious about the science.


RE: Too good to be true?
By lostvyking on 2/24/2010 3:33:07 PM , Rating: 2
"And unlike a coal power plant, the power is produced on site so there are no grid losses."

That seems to be a bit of a misnomer. It seems that one would still have to feed this thing. Sure, no grid losses. However, you are then faced with the task of finding fuel for it, transporting that fuel to it, and storing that fuel unless you have a constant fuel supply on-site already.

Where the rubber hits the road: my electric bill varies around $130 a month. Would $130 worth of propane run through this device give me that same amount of electricity?

"K. R. Sridhar, the ex-NASA researcher who founded the company says that he initially developed the technology to power Mars colonies, but in the end it proved too compelling not to offer on Earth."

Not to mention that Mars is easily 20 years down the road if not farther and Mr. Sridhar cannot wait that long without a steady paycheck.

Personally I like the concept of on-site power production and would jump on this thing in a heartbeat if it proves dependable and cost-effective.


RE: Too good to be true?
By HotFoot on 2/24/2010 3:41:27 PM , Rating: 3
Natural gas is piped to a huge number of homes, so there is a significant infrastructure already available should a household version of this product come to market.


RE: Too good to be true?
By shin0bi272 on 2/24/2010 4:03:27 PM , Rating: 2
I thought that natural gas was brought to people's homes via trucks and stored in large tanks outside. Maybe Im just from too rural of an area.


RE: Too good to be true?
By porkpie on 2/24/2010 4:02:16 PM , Rating: 2
You're thinking of propane I believe.


RE: Too good to be true?
By HotFoot on 2/24/2010 4:11:33 PM , Rating: 2
The truck/tank thing might be done for NG as well, but is very popular for propane. It may be that NG piped to the home is only common in northern areas that favour NG for heating.

I really think there should be a good opportunity for this or similar high-temperature fuel cell installations for places such as apartment buildings. Use the combined-cycle approach and take the waste heat for building heating or cooling. It's possible to get the fuel utilisation up past 80%.


RE: Too good to be true?
By namechamps on 2/24/2010 4:52:16 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think it is done for NG because unlike liquid propane it would either need to be one of the following:
a) extremely cold to be liquefied (expensive and loses for evaporation)
b) massive tank (3 day backup @ 100 KW would be 30,000 cubic feet of NG)
c) the NG would need to be highly compressed (energy intensive)

All of those have high costs and losses associated with them.

For natural gas it simply makes more sense to get it piped to you at low pressure. If the Bloom claim is correct though you can use any hydrocarbon. So a site could generate its own power via NG and have another onsite fuel (propane) which has a higher cost but is easier stored as an emergency backup. You get low cost of NG combined with onsite security of propane.

Power outage = immune -produce onsite w/ natural gas.
Natural gas outage = use grid.
Outage of both = use propane tanks.

That is a triple win for redundancy.


RE: Too good to be true?
By kaoken on 2/25/2010 3:28:53 PM , Rating: 1
By my calculations from their data sheet, the bloom has about 34% efficiency.

src: http://www.bloomenergy.com/products/data-sheet/

-power in: Fuel required @ rated power 0.661 MMBtu/hr of natural gas

-power out: Rated power output (AC) 100 kW

-powerOut/powerIn = .34


RE: Too good to be true?
By namechamps on 2/25/2010 3:52:41 PM , Rating: 3
Your conversion are wrong

3412.97 BTU per kWh
input -> output
0.661MBtu/hr -> 100kW
0.661MBtu ->100kWh
661,000 BTU -> 100kWh
193.673 kWh -> 100kWh

100kWh out / 193.673 kWh in = 51.63% efficient.


RE: Too good to be true?
By bhieb on 2/24/2010 4:34:34 PM , Rating: 2
LP (Liquid Propane) is as the name implies is stored as a liquid and NG (natural gas) as a gas. My guess is that the BTU/Cubic foot makes it unreasonable to store NG at your home in a tank. In order to get the same BTU you would need a much larger/unsightly tank.

You are familiar with LP because your rural, it is not usually beneficial to run NG lines to service 1 home / square mile. But in towns it is part of the infrastructure,and is far more effective than have a truck drive around and service each home.


RE: Too good to be true?
By Masospaghetti on 2/25/2010 8:32:27 AM , Rating: 2
I think you are thinking of heating oil?

NG, at least everywhere i've lived (Southern US, Midwest, Michigan) has always been delivered by pipes to households and businesses.


RE: Too good to be true?
By ksherman on 2/24/2010 4:03:25 PM , Rating: 2
What's really exciting is that Natural Gas is a very very abundant resource in North America. Helps us to get even closer to being able to move away from oil, between coal and NG.


RE: Too good to be true?
By menace on 2/24/2010 6:08:20 PM , Rating: 2
It's replacing coal so you aren't really solving the dependency on foreign oil and stuff. If you were interested in that alone you would do the opposite - build more coal plants and then mandate use of EV or PHEVs. We have something like 1/3 of the world coal reserves in US. We have lots of NG reserves but not even half as much as Russia does iirc.


RE: Too good to be true?
By namechamps on 2/25/2010 8:40:07 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah but nat gas is a good compromise between "clean" and abundant.

Burning more coal is not a good idea. Nat gas doesn't produce billions of tons of toxic fly ash each year (contaminated with radioactive isotopes, heavy metals and other carcinogens).


RE: Too good to be true?
By greenslaves on 2/25/2010 12:02:53 AM , Rating: 3
Why is everyone stuck on the whole NG,LNG,or LP It seems that everyone has missed one small fact this unit has multi. fuel source advantages, quoted from the article "an organic such as algae or switchgrass ethanol (as opposed to fossil fuels)" I do smell green Govt. TAX $'s in action here... the orig. system NASA designed fuel source was"algae powered":} these algae plant production sites have come of age, very small self serving algae production plants now exist that COULD/can supply an individuals needs or A large Corp. site @ very low cost low cost;) be it in remote areas or on A rooftop. Massive heat output what an added bonus! The idea of creating or more so...capturing my waste generating methane production as A near free raw fuel source opposed to An algae plant is A "NO-BRAINER"!


Efficiency, and other concerns.
By ArcliteHawaii on 2/24/2010 3:19:44 PM , Rating: 2
One thing I'm skeptical about is the efficiency claims of "twice as efficient" as coal or natural gas. Modern coal plants are already 45% efficient and combined cycle natural gas plants are almost 60% efficient. Is he claiming 90% efficiency?

While having generation on site is good, losses from electric transport is 7% on average nationwide, which while significant, isn't debilitating.

Also, unlike solar and wind, this power generation is still susceptible to the price fluctuations of carbon-based fuels.




RE: Efficiency, and other concerns.
By porkpie on 2/24/2010 4:03:50 PM , Rating: 2
"Also, unlike solar and wind, this power generation is still susceptible to the price fluctuations of carbon-based fuels. "

But not susceptible to the availability fluctuations of wind and solar. When you're a business, you need power NOW...not tomorrow morning when the sun starts to shine, or the wind begins to blow again.


RE: Efficiency, and other concerns.
By HotFoot on 2/24/2010 4:15:58 PM , Rating: 2
Wind/solar and this type of distributed fuel cell power generation could be a nice complimenting system on top a base of nuclear/hydro. Problem is having to install 20 MW of fuel cells to back up 20 MW of wind power you can't rely on doesn't sound very economical. Eh... no easy answers.


RE: Efficiency, and other concerns.
By porkpie on 2/24/2010 7:35:01 PM , Rating: 3
There's one easy answer. Just build a bunch of new nuclear plants. No emissions, no outages, no high costs, and no problems.


RE: Efficiency, and other concerns.
By ArcliteHawaii on 2/24/2010 10:13:25 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, because it's so easy and cheap to build nuclear plants. That's why we've built so many over the last four decades.


RE: Efficiency, and other concerns.
By porkpie on 2/24/2010 11:03:42 PM , Rating: 3
Snidely disavowing reality doesn't win you arguments. The reason nuclear power plants stopped being constructed had nothing to do with the plants themselves, and everything to do with the anti-nuclear movement.

And you, I, and anyone else not living under a rock for the last 30 years is well aware of that.


RE: Efficiency, and other concerns.
By JediJeb on 2/24/2010 4:42:13 PM , Rating: 2
I think though the ability to switch between carbon based fuels will be a big selling point as you can then use whatever is priced best. If it isn't too much work to do the switch then that would help keep the energy costs level during fluctuating markets. Another big seller is on site energy production. We sure could have used something like this at our lab last year when an ice storm knocked out power here for 8 days in the city, and 12 at my house and 21 at a co-workers house.


RE: Efficiency, and other concerns.
By Calin on 2/25/2010 2:20:42 AM , Rating: 2
Switching between carbon based fuels means you must have infrastructure for every one of them. That makes electrical lines seem cheap by comparison.
On the other hand, gas lines are much more resistant to damage (but much slower to be repaired).


Finally?
By smackababy on 2/24/2010 2:27:07 PM , Rating: 2
This is the first "news" report about these stupid things I've read that says, in the first paragraph no less, that they are not some "fossil fuel ditching" technology.

I still can't understand why they don't patent and release what these "inks" are.




RE: Finally?
By ClownPuncher on 2/24/2010 2:59:52 PM , Rating: 5
The inks are made up of left over snake oil from nVidia's Fermi PR campaign. Potent stuff, really.


RE: Finally?
By shin0bi272 on 2/24/10, Rating: -1
RE: Finally?
By ClownPuncher on 2/24/2010 4:01:25 PM , Rating: 5
Learn to take a joke, internet cancer.


RE: Finally?
By MamiyaOtaru on 2/24/2010 8:26:20 PM , Rating: 1
I'm not super interested in what they announce. I am interested in what is true.


RE: Finally?
By bighairycamel on 2/24/2010 4:58:14 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe because the energy required to create the inks is horrendously inefficient and demanding?

Most likely a patent thing sure, but wouldn't that be a kicker...


RE: Finally?
By JediJeb on 2/26/2010 6:06:03 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe they are waiting for the patent office to issue the patent.

Since they need to take the emailed patent and print it so they can then go to the copy machine and make more copies to put into individual folders to hand around to the ones reviewing the patent, who will then make copies to sign and send back up the chain before they are finally filed where noone will ever find them. Then in twenty years someone will find it again and maybe issue the patent.


Usable Waste Heat
By Jellodyne on 2/24/2010 4:56:25 PM , Rating: 2
These things apparently get pretty hot, which may cause some of the energy output to be wasted in California and Las Vegas while it's running their air conditioners. I wonder if some of that waste heat could be recaptured here in Minnesota to heat our buildings, at least for half the year.




RE: Usable Waste Heat
By fic2 on 2/24/2010 8:42:46 PM , Rating: 2
If this is all true I would love to talk the HOA into putting one in my building in Denver. 47 units. Currently just the common areas spends ~$40k/year on electricity (~$0.10/kw). Have no idea on individual units since they are individually metered. But if we could install a unit and use the waste heat for basically unlimited hot water that would be sweet. We also use the hot water for heating the units - individual unit heat pumps. Current hot water is from a natural gas boiler. Common energy usage per year is probably around $60k. If we could spend say $150k for one and save $30k/year payback would be 5 years and we could save $150k over the expected life. That would not suck.


RE: Usable Waste Heat
By kgstew on 2/24/2010 10:01:18 PM , Rating: 2
fic2, you might want to check out the ClearEdge5 fuel cell. It's similar to the Bloom Box but scaled down and quite a bit less expensive. See some details on it here http://www.numeridian.com/fuelcells/stationary-pow...


RE: Usable Waste Heat
By fic2 on 2/25/2010 12:40:59 PM , Rating: 2
Hmm, seems interesting. $50k for 43,800 kw-hours yearly output. I will have to find out what our actual usage is instead of how much we pay, but I do think we are considerably higher than 43800 kw-hours/year.

Thanks for the link.


RE: Usable Waste Heat
By fic2 on 2/26/2010 6:22:15 PM , Rating: 2
From the 4 bills I was sent it seems like our building is averaging about 42,000 kWh/month (~1,400 kWh/day). So, we would need about 10 of these for near self sufficiency. I need to find out if we are charged for "over usage" then it might be worth it to get one of these for the higher cost electricity.


Just some numbers
By docawolff on 2/24/2010 4:59:27 PM , Rating: 2
Just a couple of numbers. see Bloom's data sheet: http://www.bloomenergy.com/products/data-sheet/

0.661 MM BTU of natural gas converted to kWh = 194 kWh.
rated power output: 100 kW
Thermal Efficiency: 51.8%

PC (Pulverized Coal) subcritical power plant thermal efficiency is around 35%, but deducting 7% transmission losses gives around 32.7% Ultra-Supercritical PC power plants are expected to get up to 43-46% (for both of these numbers I cite an MIT paper from 2009. see: http://web.mit.edu/mitei/docs/reports/beer-emissio... With 7% loss that gives 40.2 - 43% efficiency.

Gas turbines can get up to 40% thermal efficiency. (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gas_turbine)

I am not drawing any conclusions. Just giving some numbers, with citations, for discussion.

The value of not being connected to the grid is unknown, but probably high.

The value of being tied to the natural gas supply is probably high, but could become a liability if supplies tighten or infrastructure is inadequate for supply.




RE: Just some numbers
By namechamps on 2/24/2010 5:08:47 PM , Rating: 3
The other advantage that is missed is transmission cost.

I am not talking about transmission losses.

I looked at my electric bill. My generation rate is only 4.2 cent per kWh however another 5.2 cents is charged for transmission. Gross rate is 9.4 cents = 11 cents with all taxes.

I ran some numbers on natural gas at $10 per ccf (our rate including delivery). That works out to about $0.075 per kwh.

Plus I could offset a lot of natural gas used for heating by using heat exchanger to capture waste heat. Including an offset for "saved" heating BTU that brings it down to a net rate of $0.05 per kwh.

$0.05 per kWh self generated vs $0.11 per kWh from utility. Doesn't take long to get a break even with that kind of savings.


RE: Just some numbers
By porkpie on 2/24/2010 6:39:43 PM , Rating: 2
"Gas turbines can get up to 40% thermal efficiency."

A dual-cycle turbine can come close to 60%...though I understand they're rather pricey.


RE: Just some numbers
By johnr81 on 2/24/2010 7:44:20 PM , Rating: 2
Nice link, I find this interesting too
quote:
Remotely managed and monitored by Bloom Energy


Conspiracy theories aside, that shows how the current design is very much still intended just for large customers. Also makes me wonder exactly how well they operate without any internet connection? I could see this as being used at locations where an independence from the power grid for reliability is considered a big positive.


I'm changing careers
By chmilz on 2/24/2010 2:41:57 PM , Rating: 3
Anyone with some capital want to invest in my upcoming massive off-the-grid grow op?




RE: I'm changing careers
By Pippy on 2/24/2010 5:09:20 PM , Rating: 2
Hehe, one of the first things I thought about.


There are some misleading statements in there...
By Iaiken on 2/24/2010 3:57:59 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
the key is cutting out the middle-man (power transmission) and embracing a modular design akin to servers


This specific statement is VERY misleading. You are simply trading in one transmission medium (wires) for another (pipes/trucks). In order to pipe natural gas anywhere, they burn natural gas to both keep the gas warm enough that it is easy to push and to generate the pressure necessary to move it.

These "twice as efficient" statements likely don't take into account the various inefficiencies and limitations of the existing natural gas distribution networks. I would be interested in seeing their end-to-end efficiency compared to the current electricity generation and transmission system.

The only places I can see this making a ton of sense is where an effective and comprehensive natural gas distribution grid exists and where the waste heat can be recaptured and put to use by essentially replacing boiler rooms.




By HotFoot on 2/24/2010 4:20:46 PM , Rating: 2
Wow wow wow... keeping it warm so it's easy to push? What kind of messed up gas is this that it's more efficient to pump it at a higher temperature? Every other gas I can think of is much more efficient to pump when it's cold.

But yes, a portion of the gas in a NG pipeline is burned off in pumping stations. That really should be accounted for when it comes to the overall efficiency of the prospective energy sources.

Of course, not too many people include the energy expenditures of mining/processing/transporting for coal or uranium, so the status-quo efficiencies we're comparing to aren't the full story, either.

In the end, high efficiency is nice in terms of monitoring how wasteful (or not) a process is. What really matters, though, is what does it cost in dollars and cents.


Just 2 questions
By Kibbles on 2/24/2010 4:05:48 PM , Rating: 2
How many cu ft of natural gas for 1 kwh of electricity?

How many hours before cell failure?

Before knowing that, everything else is just fluff.




RE: Just 2 questions
By kgstew on 2/24/2010 10:05:46 PM , Rating: 2
Cell failure is still the big question...

You can see the system specs on Bloom's website but it uses .661 MMBTU/hr of Natural gas to produce 100 kw.


Could this be adapted for an all electric vehicle?
By dijuremo on 2/24/2010 8:07:02 PM , Rating: 2
There will be two things that will be important:

- Size and weight of a system required to power the vehicle

- Efficiency and amount of hydrocarbon needed to produce the electric energy.

It would eliminate long charge times required on battery only or battery hybrid vehicles like the Volt. It will still have the issue of finding "natural gas" dispensers/stations, but you would not have to wait for hours to charge it.




By namechamps on 2/25/2010 4:02:47 PM , Rating: 2
Size weight wouldn't be much of a problem the killer though would be cost.

Even the "someday" $3000 residential unit is only 2KW. You would need at least 16 KW for a vehicle like Volt (battery plus recharger). A true fuel cell vehicle would need a stack double that.

At current prices it is simply prohibitive to use in a car.

However it would be very cool. Instead of expensive (in terms of energy and cost) hydrogen you could just use compressed nat gas.

Pretty easy to add nat gas to "gas stations". Many already have nat gas pumps. You could also "fillup" at home.

A current nat gas prices it would cost about $150 per year (12,000 miles) assuming you could get 5 miles to the kWh.


Can we get to the crux please...?
By Landiepete on 2/25/2010 4:02:02 AM , Rating: 2
Although many of you point out valid percentages and equasions, most of what I read in the comments is what Dave Gilmour would call 'psychedelic noodling'.

Does it really matter if the system is 67, 70 or indeed 72.5, or even only 60% efficient ?

Even the 'worst case' is a significant improvement over the existing systems.

What does, however, worry me more is that it still relies on fossil fuels or equivalents like bioethanol. Which is exactly what we are trying to get rid of.

So at best the system is a stopgap measure. And to me it sounds vey expensive for a stopgap.




By namechamps on 2/25/2010 4:08:25 PM , Rating: 2
It is nowhere near the efficient.

No need to aproximate the efficiency. Bloom gives input and output. You just need to convert to same units and divide.

Input: 0.661MBTU/hr NG
Ouput: 100KW

There are 3412.97 BTU per kWh

input -> output
0.661MBtu/hr -> 100kW
0.661MBtu ->100kWh
661,000 BTU -> 100kWh
193.673 kWh -> 100kWh

100kWh out / 193.673 kWh in = 51.63% efficient.

As far as fossil fuels the switch off them is going to take decades. We have a 100 year supply of natural gas. Switching from burning oil/coal to solid state fuel cell is a massive savings in terms of emissions and increasing length of our reserves.


Some Fun numbers
By namechamps on 2/25/2010 1:28:01 AM , Rating: 3
So the unit converts natural gas into electricity at a rate of 100kW from 0.661 MBTU/hr of nat gas
100kW = 0.661 MBTU/hr
1kW = 0.0061 MBTU/hr
1kWh = 0.0061 MBTU
1kWh = 6610 BTU
1kWh = 0.0648 ccf (102,000 BTU per ccf = hundred cubic feet)

In my neighborhood electricity costs $0.11 delivered and NG costs $1.05 per ccf.

0.0648 * $1.05 = $0.068 per kWh generated. A savings of roughly 38% (excluding capital costs of fuel cell).

Not too bad I can see why they have good ROI.

Also couldn't you rig a heat exchanger and use waste heat for hot water & residential heating essentially getting millions of BTU of thermal energy for free? That shave a penny or so off the net kWh cost.




By AmbroseAthan on 2/24/2010 3:09:27 PM , Rating: 2
Quote from the linked article:
quote:
Update, February 23 at 7 p.m. PST: More details added throughout.


Much more information was added, as it didn't have nearly as many details on Monday as it does now. Though I admit the link implies that information was from today.

The original story was already covered here, which seems to be the same day the story was mainly breaking across the net (following the CBS special): http://www.dailytech.com/Is+the+Magic+Alternative+...

Further, this article was about the Energy Servers, which from my reading around the net, are/were unveiled today:
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/02/10...

And one more, Blooms own press releases were today regarding the new servers and more information.
http://www.bloomenergy.com/news/press-releases/

Not sure how this is "stale."


Twice as efficient as coal?
By iFX on 2/24/2010 3:36:10 PM , Rating: 2
Is the manufacturing cost of the unit and fuel supply factored into this efficiency?




Great product
By rdwestgate on 2/24/2010 4:37:09 PM , Rating: 2
I was fortunate enough to make some parts for this device at my old job. Really cool technology, people would be interested to see what materials are actually used in parts of the box.




By JonB on 2/24/2010 4:39:53 PM , Rating: 2
Haven't seen anything about the DC output. I'm sure they can play with the Series/Parallel plate combinations to get many choices, but certainly something is most efficient. Perhaps 450VDC feeding 3 synchronized inverters to supply 3 Phase industrial power?




Expect no less...
By Suntan on 2/24/2010 4:41:43 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
the key is cutting out the middle-man (power transmission) and embracing a modular design akin to servers, the backbone of the internet.


Yeah... because the internet doesn't use substantial infrastructure in order to facilitate transmission flow between various servers around the internet… Or does everyone just have there own little server in their back yard creating every webpage that gets shuffled into the house and onto the computer?

Honestly, who comes up with these horrid analogies? We get it, this company wants you to think “fancy” “techie” like a “server” but the analogies are so bad it makes a person question the competence level of the company spokesman.

quote:
While many alternative energy startups have struggled to find financial backers


What does this have anything to do with this article? There’s nothing about alternative energy with this company.

-Suntan




Worth the investment if true
By Wr on 2/24/2010 4:47:32 PM , Rating: 2
Fuel cells have always excelled at efficiency (e.g. 70% in the Apollo hydrogen cells); the problems have been in the choice of fuels and the cost of the catalysts. Even if this Bloom cell is only as efficient as a coal power plant:

1) Transmission and distribution costs for electricity are higher than for natural gas. (Here in New England I pay 80% of electrical supply cost for transmission + taxes + admin, but only 55% of natural gas supply cost for piping + admin.)
2) Having your personal generator means you can exploit inefficiency for home heating or hot water. Your local coal station does not pipe hot water to you.
3) If a $3000 unit lasts 10 years that's <$6 a week. $10 if you include generous interest calculations. Since the royalty portion of the cost can eventually bottom out due to mass production, this is promising stuff.




Alternative energy sources
By FishTankX on 2/24/2010 4:58:14 PM , Rating: 2
I wonder how much power this machine could generate with a gas digester system hooked up to a septic tank. You run all of your garbage disposal slurry and sewage slurry into the septic tank, design optimize the septic tank to generate biogas, and feed the biogas into the bloombox. If it's enough, you might be able to partially offset costs.

For instance, if you take this Wikipedia article, if your family generates about 3 (dry) pounds of food scraps per day, and 2 (dry) pounds of sewage per day, according to the Wikipedia page on anaerobic digestion, you could potentially get about 2kwh of energy out of that per day. Only about 10% of the energy required for a home, but might pay itself back in 15-20 years.

Much more tantalizing for me, is if I could take one of these bloom boxes, the $3000 model, and stick a huge tank of filtered waste vegetable oil next to it. If it can really burn anything, it could essentially give me free fuel to burn for fuel in my house. Just raid a couple of burger joints and free fuel. If my house uses 250kwh per month (I live in Japan, small house) the local energy costs run about $0.2/kwh. So I could save $40/month. This would be a payback of 5 years. For the cost of about 10 gallons of waste vegetable oil a month.




By forgotmypassword on 2/24/2010 5:12:03 PM , Rating: 2
I'd buy one of these for my fallout shelter...




60 Minutes Segment
By bplewis24 on 2/24/2010 5:42:56 PM , Rating: 2
http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6228923n&ta...

A lot of questions the comments are asking can be answered in this segment.

Brandon




It's a great supplement
By Nighteye2 on 2/24/2010 10:12:17 PM , Rating: 2
This technology should not be used on it's own, but in addition to wind and solar power. The cells can pick up the slack whenever there's too little wind and/or sun.




Odd...
By roostitup on 2/24/2010 11:55:39 PM , Rating: 2
It strikes me as odd that so many companies would embrace this technology without really knowing what it is made from. You can't really tout the box as green if the ink is toxic or some other issue. Seems to me like they should have to tell people what these inks are made out of and if it's recyclable in some way before selling them.




What would make this...
By omgwtf8888 on 3/2/2010 10:36:33 AM , Rating: 2
If this could be a replacement for the current furnace in the house this would be very understandable and practical for most homeowners. Take out the furnace switch out heating to electric baseboard and water heating to electric on demand and essentially use the existing fuel lines to power the server. The only difference would be the power output to the fuse panel. Houses in need of HVAC replacement would probably be around the same cost as this system, with the benefit of years of power generation.




Ink?
By bildan on 2/24/2010 3:14:55 PM , Rating: 1
So, is this like ink-jet printers - $100 a week for "Ink Cartridges"?




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