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Bloom Energy CEO K. R, Sridhar holds the fuel cells that make up his "Bloombox". Made of sand and inks (the secret part), Mr. Sridhar says the design will revolutionize the power industry.  (Source: Fortune)

The cells stack with metal into a box, about the size of a bread loaf. A mere 64-cell stack could power a Starbucks.  (Source: CBS)

The mini stacks go, in mass, inside a large box shaped enclosure to form the official "Bloombox", which retails for $700 to 800k USD and produces enough energy to power heavy applications like server farms.  (Source: CBS)
Fuel cell box powered by secretive tech, many questions remain

It's a shiny box with a whole lot of mystery that's receiving a whole lot of attention this week.  The "Bloom Box" a roughly cubic structure has already been embraced by eBay, Google, Staples, FedEx, and Walmart, which extol its savings.  But is the new box the solution to all of mankind energy problems or a snake oil remedy for the world's fossil fuel habit?

In an exclusive interview on the CBS television program 
60 Minutes, company K.R. Sridhar, CEO of Bloom Energy, gave the public a tantalizing first peek at the secret alternative energy device.  And on Wednesday, he will follow that performance up with a major public announcement in Silicon Valley, which will play host to such distinguished guests as Colin Powell, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a host of prominent venture capitalists.

So what is a Bloom Box exactly?  Well, $700,000 to $800,000 will buy you a "corporate sized" unit.  Inside the box are a unique kind of fuel cell consisting of ceramic disks coated with green and black "inks".  The inks somehow transform a stream of methane (or other hydrocarbons) and oxygen into power, when the box heats up to its operating temperature of 1,000 degrees Celsius.

To get a view of the cost and benefits, eBay installed 5 of the boxes nine months ago.  It says it has saved $100,000 USD on energy since.  So assuming the maximum cost -- $4M USD -- the investment on a Bloom Box would appear to take 30 years to recoup.  EBay says the five boxes generate more clean energy than the company's 3,000 solar panels (assuming a bulk cost of $200/panel, and additional expense that system would run around $1M USD, at a minimum).  Given those numbers the Bloom Box certainly doesn't appear to be cheaper than solar power, though it claims to be.

Obviously the above math illustrates some of the inconsistencies of the Bloom Box hype.  However, the equation could soon change.  Mr. Sridhar hopes the funding that's being virtually thrown at him and his enigmatic box will help drive down costs to below $3,000 for a residential unit within 5 to 10 years.  Such costs could certainly make the technology competitive with solar systems which cost anywhere from $20,000-$70,000 USD for home installations.

Mr. Sridhar originally invented a similar device when he was working for NASA designing infrastructure for a prospective Mars colony.  Now he's market the device right here on Earth.

He says the upside is incredible, especially for the energy hungry American consumer.  He describes, "The way we make it is in two blocks. This is a European home. The two put together is a U.S. home."  

60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl, "Cause we use twice as much energy, is that what you're saying?"

Mr. Sridhar replies, "Yeah, and this'll power four Asian homes...Four to six homes in our country."

Inside the box, one disc can produce energy to "power a lightbulb" (60 W, assuming a full power lightbulb).  The discs are produced from baked sand and then painted on each side with the special ink.  In between the discs an inexpensive metal (not platinum) is placed.  According to Mr. Sridhar, 64 discs could power a Starbucks.

The Bloom Box has some additional downsides; for one, it produces carbon dioxide emissions, an alternative energy no-no.  However, there's also numerous upsides -- the boxes have a tiny footprint versus alternatives (eBay's solar installation takes "acres and acres" versus the five Bloom Boxes that can fit inside a large room).  The device could also be carbon neutral if it used carbon from plant sources, such as algae or switchgrass ethanol.  And best of all it can produce at full power 24-7 -- something no solar or wind generator can claim.

So is the "magic" box a stud or a dud?  It's hard to tell.  About the only thing that's for sure is that Wednesday's announcement should be intriguing.

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Snake Oil?
By Connoisseur on 2/22/2010 10:08:37 AM , Rating: 5
I'm always wary of "revolutionary" new technologies that are black-boxed like this. If they have the patent for whatever special process they use (which i'm assuming they do), there should be no harm in revealing the general workings to public scrutiny.

RE: Snake Oil?
By ImSpartacus on 2/22/2010 10:13:07 AM , Rating: 2
Well they have some big players who are trialing the technology. Ebay seemed satisfied in the video.

Who knows?

RE: Snake Oil?
By Lord 666 on 2/22/2010 10:25:18 AM , Rating: 1
Just re-read the entire article. The device requires a heat of 1000C to function. Its too early in the morning for me to calculate BTUs, but surely the additional cooling requirements will negate any potential energy savings in data centers.

RE: Snake Oil?
By Xenoterranos on 2/22/2010 10:35:25 AM , Rating: 5
"The inks somehow transform a stream of methane (or other hydrocarbons) and oxygen into power, when the box heats up to its operating temperature of 1,000 degrees Celsius."

It reaches 1000C during operation, which sounds to me like a very efficient heat engine. The fact that is uses Oxygen and Methane means it's really just an engine, presumably a solid state one (which is actually very awesome!) It most likely uses thermocouples to turn that heat into electricity. I'm guessing the inks act as the catalyst to "burn" the Methane., while the ceramic disks are used because they can withstand the temperatures involved, and probably absorb tons of "ink".

RE: Snake Oil?
By djcameron on 2/23/2010 1:27:21 AM , Rating: 5
It's just a clever plan by HP, Canon, and Epson to sell more ink!

RE: Snake Oil?
By ImSpartacus on 2/22/2010 10:46:08 AM , Rating: 2
I didn't read the article. I watched the 60 minutes video. It had a short interview with the CEO of Ebay. He was very pleased with the Bloom Box.

Granted, I'm not sure if he's being paid to say that, but Ebay is a pretty big company. A [successful?] trial by a company that big means something, right?

RE: Snake Oil?
By Motoman on 2/22/2010 10:58:57 AM , Rating: 5
...eBay is also pretty pleased with themselves, and their PayPal subsidiary - so I'm not all that swayed by anything that guy says...

On topic, these boxes may be perfectly legit - but the black-boxedness makes me a bit leary. Too easy to equate it to zero-point energy or something if the entire workings aren't in the open for all to see.

RE: Snake Oil?
By johnr81 on 2/22/2010 9:55:23 PM , Rating: 4
To be fair from a stockholder perspective (not me), ebay is still making tons of money.

Personally, I'm not sure why people are so concerned with the black box development of a new product. The public unveiling is actually Wednesday anyway, the 60 minutes thing was just a publicity move to build a buzz. Even with all the proper patents, copyrights and other legal stuff I'm not an expert on, it seems every product out there is duplicated. How many multi-touch phones are there, how many tivo-like devices, hybrid cars, etc? It seems perfectly logical to keep a new technology under wraps until it's mature enough to start selling. I'm not a big Apple fan, but they do it all the time.

Now if they start trying to publicly sell these devices without appropriate proof, documentation, explanation, etc, I agree there's a problem.

RE: Snake Oil?
By wolrah on 2/23/2010 10:57:33 AM , Rating: 4
Personally, I'm not sure why people are so concerned with the black box development of a new product.

Because this market in particular is full of scammers promoting miracle solutions and this company is a no-name claiming huge gains over the current state of the industry.

When Apple is working in secrecy, they're not doing anything unheard of or world changing, they're just putting together well known technologies in pretty cases with good software. Since this is exactly what Apple is known for, no one considers it unusual for them to do that again.

These guys on the other hand are unknowns who are claiming a significant gain over current technology. They've also gone to the media directly rather than announcing to the industry or the scientific community. Both are common traits of bullshit. They're not claiming anything impossible like perpetual motion, but given the circumstances skepticism is warranted until more information is known and/or public tests are performed.

What they're claiming doesn't violate any fundamental laws of physics like the "free energy" machines of Steorn and the like, but it's still far enough from the current state of technology that only the big names who have supposedly tested the device give it any credibility at the moment.

As Carl Sagan put it, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." Apple making a new computer-like device? Not much of an extraordinary claim, so not much evidence needed to believe it. Unknown company develops revolutionary energy device? Now that's going to need more proof.

RE: Snake Oil?
By porkpie on 2/23/2010 12:41:38 PM , Rating: 2
" and this company is a no-name claiming huge gains over the current state of the industry."

Huh? They're claiming essentially around 65% effiency. That's not unheard of for a fuel cell...some lab designs can break 70%:

RE: Snake Oil?
By amanojaku on 2/22/2010 10:58:29 AM , Rating: 5
The one thing you should learn about executives, politicians, and anyone with publicly acknowledged authority is that they don't want to look stupid, especially when taking risks. Imagine buying a few million dollars' worth of these only to turn around a year latter and say they're terrible. And you need to be a company as big as Google to afford one of these things.

I'll only trust testimonials once this box is used for 3-5 years outside of California. No offense, guys, but you're getting this at half price because of tax breaks and subsidies. Let's see what the numbers say when you're paying full price.

RE: Snake Oil?
By bigdawg1988 on 2/22/2010 3:51:16 PM , Rating: 1
I agree with you guys. Didn't a bunch of billionaires (I think Jobs and Bezos among others) claim that the Segway would revolutionize transportation and change the way cities are built?
I haven't seen anything different, except there are more cops and mailmen riding the things. I hadn't noticed too many people in Atlanta riding them around and the highways haven't disappeared.
Just because someone is rich doesn't mean they know everything. And who knows what hidden motives Execs may have behind this. Maybe Google has invested in it and they're trying to get a bunch of other fools to buy them. Even at $2M, you're looking at a 15 year pay off. How long does the thing last? Is there a shutoff switch in case the fuel catches fire? Cooling that thing down from 1000C would take a long time.

RE: Snake Oil?
By Exirtis on 2/22/2010 10:13:48 PM , Rating: 3
The difference between this and a Segway, though, is that with the Segway they were overstating the effects of the technology, while the technology itself worked.

With this, if the tech itself works as advertised (I'm skeptical), the effects are left implicit to just about anyone.

RE: Snake Oil?
By namechamps on 2/22/2010 5:10:50 PM , Rating: 2
Um I think you put them outside.

WHy would you put something generating 1000 heat inside a air conditioned space?

Also 1000 deg for a fuel cell is very low which is a good indication that is more efficient (more electrical energy and less thermal energy).

RE: Snake Oil?
By porkpie on 2/22/2010 5:16:52 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, 1000C is very HIGH for a fuel cell...most proton membrane fuel cells operate at about 80-150C.

RE: Snake Oil?
By porkpie on 2/22/2010 5:16:52 PM , Rating: 1
Actually, 1000C is very HIGH for a fuel cell...most proton membrane fuel cells operate at about 80-150C.

RE: Snake Oil?
By monkeyman1140 on 2/25/2010 10:16:46 AM , Rating: 2
But proton membrane fuel cells have much lower output, and are more easily damaged by heat. There's no need to be scared of 1000C, especially since we're talking ceramics here. The heat given off is reused to keep the fuel cell at its operating temperature, and waste heat can be used to heat water or generate additional electricity.

RE: Snake Oil?
By pastabrain76 on 2/24/2010 3:49:04 PM , Rating: 2
Nope. This part of the equation is old technology. It's the same reaction used in a steam methane reformer. The reaction is exothermic, so it generates a lot of heat. But that's a good thing because apparently that heat is needed to actually move the elctrons via an electro-chemical reaction. Voila. Built in heat sink.

Beyond that, there are other reasons this could be a good technology.

RE: Snake Oil?
By pastabrain76 on 2/24/2010 3:52:17 PM , Rating: 3
Oh... The name of the reaction is the water gas shift reaction or Dussan reaction. And is utilized many major refinery and petrochemical plants around the world.

RE: Snake Oil?
By amanojaku on 2/22/2010 10:35:11 AM , Rating: 3
This quote from a 60 minutes interview is pretty enlightening:
One reason the companies have signed up is that in California 20 percent of the cost is subsidized by the state, and there's a 30 percent federal tax break because it's a "green" technology. In other words: the price is cut in half.
All of the current customers are in California. Bloom Energy can't find ONE customer anywhere else in the world? Seems to me like no one was willing to take a chance unless the price dropped like a rock. A 30-40 year cost recoup means squat to today's businesses. Most of the people there won't be around in 30 years, and this is ridiculously expensive
in the short term. Without the tax breaks and subsidies this would never have taken off.

RE: Snake Oil?
By porkpie on 2/22/2010 12:16:17 PM , Rating: 1
An astute analysis, which seems quite accurate.

RE: Snake Oil?
By Torment on 2/22/2010 12:56:03 PM , Rating: 3
While I'm skeptical about this particular technology, the reality is that these types of technology need government subsidies to get past early development. The reality is that a *lot* of tech gets subsidized, often at the consumer level. But there aren't a whole lot of consumers/businesses who can afford to subsidize multimillion units--nor would many have the desire to, outside of marketing PR (consumers are far less rational. Hence, intel extreme processors).

As long as subsidies are provided in a reasonable manner, I much prefer their use, which leverages the strengths of the market, to a top down decision on which technology to support (which is how we got ethanol).

RE: Snake Oil?
By porkpie on 2/22/2010 1:33:36 PM , Rating: 2
"the reality is that these types of technology need government subsidies to get past early development"

Why? A government investment in research is one thing, but the government subsidizing actual production is generally harmful. It puts a technology out in the market before its ready for prime time, which wastes resources, hurts competing (and potentially superior) technologies, and builds an existing infrastructure which may act to actually retard future improvements.

RE: Snake Oil?
By sinful on 2/22/10, Rating: 0
RE: Snake Oil?
By porkpie on 2/22/2010 2:37:49 PM , Rating: 3
True competition is never bad. But "competition" in one side receives massive government subsidies skews the results and prevents the best solution from dominating.

Nowhere is there a better example of this than corn-based ethanol. The government subsidies drained resources and money away from dvelopment of other biofuel alternatives, and the existing infrastructure and sheer political inertia of the corn-based 'solution' will hamper conversion to more efficient alternatives.

RE: Snake Oil?
By Torment on 2/22/2010 3:13:17 PM , Rating: 3
Except that you got that exactly wrong. Corn ethanol was *specifically* subsidized, not any alternative that achieved the desired goal. The reality is, the only way to develop technologies past the research stages is to put them into production. So long as the subsidy is open to competing technologies and is limited in both duration and scale, this is a very good thing.

RE: Snake Oil?
By porkpie on 2/22/2010 3:27:30 PM , Rating: 2
"the only way to develop technologies past the research stages is to put them into production"

Loo, it's really very simple. If a new product is better than existing alternatives, then it will be put into production on its own. It'll save money...and it won't need subsidies.

If it's not at that stage yet, then it needs more research. Putting it into production early doesn't just expends resources and causes additional deadweight loss to the economy:

RE: Snake Oil?
By Torment on 2/22/2010 8:37:11 PM , Rating: 2
That is simply nonsense. There is a rather large gulf between the lab and production, and moving to production is the only way to actually know if a technology is viable. This move is either subsidized by the company producing or someone else. Eg, in the case of electronics, it is often the consumer subsidizing new technology. That there is ever a case for the subsidy to be covered by the government for the public good is easily made.

I suppose we shouldn't subsidize research, either, since if the idea is good enough, it will make it on it's own, right?

RE: Snake Oil?
By porkpie on 2/23/2010 12:13:45 AM , Rating: 3
"I suppose we shouldn't subsidize research, either, since if the idea is good enough, it will make it on it's own, right?"

In basic research, there is no "idea" to commercialize...its done strictly to increase our fundamental understanding.

Applied research, on the other hand, is a different story. In this case, yes the research would still get done by the private sector...though the government can accelerate the process.

"moving to production is the only way to actually know if a technology is viable"

I can see you've never commercialized a product before. You can usually estimate very closely whether or not production is viable. This is done thousands of times a year by firms seeking venture capital, when they write their business cases. And likewise, thousands of times a year, they succesfully commercialize some new product or idea...all without the government.

The notion that government is a mandatory element to commercialize any new product is sheer flapdoodling lunacy.

RE: Snake Oil?
By Amiga500 on 2/23/2010 3:23:05 AM , Rating: 1
I can see you've never commercialized a product before.

And you have? HA HA HA.

Name any complex technology product* in the early stages of its manufacturing maturity that has come to market recently WITHOUT significant backing.

Fact is, costs come down as manufacturing niggles are ironed out. They also come down due to the workforce learning how to do everything more efficiently. They come down even further as new manufacturing techniques/allowances are made based on the experiences of first-lot manufacturing.

*i.e. not a new "brand" of hair gel!

RE: Snake Oil?
By porkpie on 2/23/2010 10:56:59 AM , Rating: 2
"Name any complex technology product* in the early stages of its manufacturing maturity that has come to market recently WITHOUT significant backing."

Without significant backing from the government? How about everything from the transistor and microchip to LCD displays to lithium batteries? And a hundred thousand other products, just in the past decade or two alone?

RE: Snake Oil?
By theRat66 on 2/23/2010 10:46:15 AM , Rating: 2
True competition is never bad. But "competition" in one side receives massive government subsidies skews the results and prevents the best solution from dominating.

I agree with porkpie on this one. It's not fair that oil has been so massively subsidized for so many years.

RE: Snake Oil?
By theRat66 on 2/22/2010 3:55:01 PM , Rating: 1
Oil is more heavily subsidized than any "alternative" fuel.

RE: Snake Oil?
By namechamps on 2/22/2010 5:14:20 PM , Rating: 2
Not true on the only metric that matters per unit of energy.

Wind & Solar are subsidized $24 per MWh compared to about $1.10 for fossil fuels and about $1.60 for nuclear.

RE: Snake Oil?
By theRat66 on 2/22/10, Rating: -1
RE: Snake Oil?
By theRat66 on 2/22/10, Rating: -1
RE: Snake Oil?
By Danger D on 2/24/2010 10:34:33 AM , Rating: 2
Maybe the word “subsidy” isn’t precisely right, but I do agree that if we spend tax money defending oil routes, it’s still coming out of my pocket as much as a wind energy subsidy.

RE: Snake Oil?
By monkeyman1140 on 2/25/2010 10:20:11 AM , Rating: 2
Businesses can be ironically quite timid to new things. I've been in buildings where the toilets are 30 years old, and the pencil pushers there haven't realized they're flushing money down the drain every day with 5 GPF toilets.

Thats also why you don't see electric cars on the road despite their viability. No company wants to stick its neck out on such a huge risk, regardless of the possible return on investment.

RE: Snake Oil?
By Lord 666 on 2/22/2010 10:20:01 AM , Rating: 3
Not sure how he can patent a potato clock because thats all it seems to be.

RE: Snake Oil?
By Sparky31415 on 2/22/2010 11:12:57 AM , Rating: 5
Based on the rough description and operating temperature, it seems pretty clear this is a solid oxide fuel cell. He has likely created a novel way to cheaply produce the materials and replace the expensive precious metal catalyst with something like iron. I also assume the system will have many of the same caveats as any SOFC ( long startup time, stack degredation, etc).
However, the grid is only about 35-40% efficient at the wall outlet. So a moderate sized SOFC could reasonably meet/exceed this.

RE: Snake Oil?
By bildan on 2/22/2010 11:30:03 AM , Rating: 3

Any hint of secrecy in such an announcement tags it as a fraud. Nothing less than full disclosure is acceptable.

RE: Snake Oil?
By porkpie on 2/22/2010 1:11:50 PM , Rating: 5
This isn't a researcher's press conference. It's a company with trade secrets.

Although Jason attempted to paint this as some "magic" perpetual-motion machine, the reality is that's merely an efficient fuel cell. The company might be inflating its efficiency figures a bit, but there's nothing improbable at all about the concept itself.

RE: Snake Oil?
By mars2k on 2/22/2010 12:45:45 PM , Rating: 2
There are other fuel cells that do this. Honda for instance was basing their Clarity pilot program on the west coast on instalation of a methane powered fuel cell for the home.
If the total CO2 emissions produced for any given task is less using this appliance then cool.
The key to lowering emissions would be how you produce methane.
Show me a major breakthrough in converting biomass.

RE: Snake Oil?
By Orac4prez on 2/22/2010 5:24:37 PM , Rating: 2
Simply using methane efficiently is a benefit. There are hundreds of oils wells burning gas (mainly methane) each year. When organic matter breaks down methane is release (garbage dumps) and ruminants (ie cows). If this is simply released it is a very potent greenhouse gas. Beleive it or not, but there are research projects on producing "low emmission cows" There are rubbish dumps where methane is captured and burnt for power (and safety). A more efficient method would be very beneficial, especially if it is in a quiet fuel cell.

RE: Snake Oil?
By Locodriver on 2/22/2010 12:53:42 PM , Rating: 2
Mover over a little bit John Galt and let the new guy in. Watch your backside for Dr. Floyd Ferris and his fist full of Gift Certificates.

RE: Snake Oil?
By Jeffk464 on 2/22/2010 2:14:48 PM , Rating: 2
How is alternative energy when it uses methane or "other hydrocarbon" (I'm guessing gasoline). I guess the upside is possible much greater efficiency then what you get in traditional "hydrocarbon" generators.

RE: Snake Oil?
By namechamps on 2/22/2010 5:15:39 PM , Rating: 2
Not just a little bit better more like double efficiency.

Think of it this way. If fuel cells replace all traditional "burning" of fossil fuels we would cut emissions in half (which is a magnitude more than money pits like Kyotot are trying to do).

RE: Snake Oil?
By scrapsma54 on 2/22/2010 2:18:51 PM , Rating: 2
Well my guess, since its name was bloom box, and was originally developed for nasa to produce oxygen on mars. I say its algae.

RE: Snake Oil?
By mcnabney on 2/22/2010 2:58:41 PM , Rating: 3
A 60% efficient fuel cell that can supply 2KW will consume a dozen cubic feet of methane per hour. I don't think the neighbors will appreciate a compost pile that is big enough to produce that much gas on a continuous basis.

RE: Snake Oil?
By popopo on 2/23/2010 10:10:46 AM , Rating: 1
Thanksgiving gifts... and Christmas gifts..

Biofuel alternative energy - Bllom Box
By ddugger on 2/22/2010 12:20:57 PM , Rating: 2
As a catalyzed gasification process this may be really interesting from a waste treatment standpoint. However, with regard to its impacts on biofuels - especially cultivated biofuels it ignores the most egregious flaws of biofuels.

Biofuels are not going to have in significant impact on our future energy shortfalls. The greatest flaw/reason is that large scale biofuel production will require chemical fertilizers in that available waste nutrients are likely to supply less than 3% of our energy needs in the most ideal case.

The fertilizers required for biofuels come from petroleum. That same petroleum we refer to in Peak Oil conversations. The same chemical fertilizers that are required to produce 85% of the global human food supply and that are required to get 95% of those foods from farm to consumer.

So, we are expecting to grow biofuels with a declining resource (petroleum) that gets more expensive as the it becomes scarcer. Essentially the price of biofuels will be determined by the price of petroleum fertilizers, processing energy costs and ultimately the price petroleum costs. This neither bodes well for biofuel cost efficiency or the global human food supply.

We are not being being realistic in how we pursue our energy problem solutions. Our expectations are that we are some how going to get energy from nothing. In truth the only net energy gain the Earth has - comes from solar energy and that is where our emphasis should always be - on solar energy derivatives that have no operating costs from non-sustainable Earth limited resources such as petroleum. Photovoltaic, wind, tide, and geothermal all offer more sustainable, cleaner and more economically efficient solutions to our energy problems in the long term.

Biofuels will never be a cost efficient energy solution as long as they are petrochemical fertilizer dependent. Biofuels generated as a by-production of waste treatment processes will be very attractive, but they will be neither volumetrically nor economically significant in the solution to our over all energy solutions.

RE: Biofuel alternative energy - Bllom Box
By porkpie on 2/22/2010 12:59:10 PM , Rating: 2
You're forgetting nuclear-- cheap, clean, and enough to last us for tens of thousands of years.

Solar power collected at earth's surface will always be a pipe dream for large-scale energy generation; the energy is simply too diffuse to efficiently collect and concentrate.

RE: Biofuel alternative energy - Bllom Box
By ddugger on 2/22/10, Rating: -1
RE: Biofuel alternative energy - Bllom Box
By HotFoot on 2/22/2010 1:45:55 PM , Rating: 2
Given the current state of electrical infrastructure, non-action is simply not an option. We continue to live off the investments made two generations ago. I'm pleased to think there will be a wider variety in power generation as we move forward, but I really think nuclear is going to need to be part of that mix.

I think research and development should continue in as many areas as we can afford - biomass, solar, wind, ocean current and wave, tidal, coal, fission, even fusion. I don't think any one of these will provide all of what we're going to need decades down the road. We'll probably need all of them.

RE: Biofuel alternative energy - Bllom Box
By ddugger on 2/22/10, Rating: 0
RE: Biofuel alternative energy - Bllom Box
By Jeffk464 on 2/22/2010 2:41:31 PM , Rating: 1
Well I guess we are waiting for some Rush Limbaugh groupie to come up with a lame rebuttal to this one.

By porkpie on 2/22/2010 3:59:02 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, I think no one really wanted to waste the time replying to such obvious tinfoil-hat material.

RE: Biofuel alternative energy - Bllom Box
By Jeffk464 on 2/22/2010 2:54:39 PM , Rating: 2
Wait, I thought if we get fusion going were home free.

RE: Biofuel alternative energy - Bllom Box
By porkpie on 2/22/2010 3:06:05 PM , Rating: 2
Technically we're already home free. Fission can power all our needs for the next several thousand years.

Even when fusion comes along, the environmentalists are going to oppose it. Until we solve the (much harder) problem of aneutronic fusion, it's still going to generate small amounts of radioactive waste.

RE: Biofuel alternative energy - Bllom Box
By HotFoot on 2/22/2010 4:39:12 PM , Rating: 1
I see you say we have enough fuel to power a great increase in fission power for thousands of years, yet I've heard estimates as low as 300 years, at the current rate of use. That's still a good long time to get to the next stage.

I don't doubt that there's a tremendous amount of fissile material in the Earth. Problem is, how much of it is economically usable, today and with realistic advancements in mining/processing capability?

RE: Biofuel alternative energy - Bllom Box
By porkpie on 2/22/2010 4:56:08 PM , Rating: 5
"yet I've heard estimates as low as 300 years"

Those estimates are based on known reserves of uranium. The problems with that approach are:

a) We essentially stopped prospecting for uranium right after we began, due to the decline of the US nuclear industry. Why spend money looking for more uranium when you have several centuries worth already?

b) Reprocessing reactors are more than ten times as efficient in their fuel usage. Moving to these designs would extend our fuel lifetime by the same factor

c) We don't even need to use uranium in reactors. Thorium, an element 3X as prevalent as uranium, can also be used.

d) Unlike coal or gas, the fuel cost of a nuclear reactor is a tiny fraction of the total power cost. Thus, even if fuel costs were to rise several hundred percent, the increase in costs to the electricity consumer would be negligible.

All the above, of course, ignores the very real possibility of mining radioactive elements from elsewhere in the solar system...something that, within a century or tw, it should be more than feasible to do, thanks to their enormously high energy density. That's something that'll never be feasible with chemical-based power.

By Amiga500 on 2/23/2010 3:26:08 AM , Rating: 2
You may have talked rubbish up the page, but this post is spot on. :-)

(Only I would say reprocessing would extend our fuel availability by much more than 10x... more to the power of 10... as it can be reprocessed, reprocessed, reprocessed and reprocessed again)

By menace on 2/23/2010 6:20:45 PM , Rating: 2
You beat me to this. This is same as the peak oil fallacy. The more we look the more we find. The less "easy" stuff we can recover we find new ways to recover the stuff harder to get to.

Even if we run out of U after 300 years, 1000 years or whatever there is always Pu fuel we can breed for another 10k years or more. If we can't figure the fusion thing out after that much time I guess we'll be doomed. If we don't have an ice age or yellowstone buries us in ten feet of ash or a dinosaur killer doesn't hit us first.

RE: Biofuel alternative energy - Bllom Box
By ar0x on 2/22/2010 11:48:56 PM , Rating: 2
I've heard estimates as low as 300 years, at the current rate of use.
This is where you're making a big mistake. You should consider a steady usage growth (ie. exponential), not a stable one.

RE: Biofuel alternative energy - Bllom Box
By HotFoot on 2/23/2010 10:03:56 AM , Rating: 2
Well, exactly. However, not that I am in any way qualified to make predictions about the amount of fuel out there, but I think 300 years is probably on the pessimistic side.

I hail originally from a province that exports a large portion of the world's uranium ore. That ore comes from some of the oldest exposed rocks on the planet. I think it's reasonable to say that we've found the uranium there because that's one of the few places it was easily accessible, but it may very well be that the resource exists all over the globe. It just might be that it's so far underground that it's very difficult to find, let alone harvest. I don't know how deeply the aerial magnetometry, gamma ray spectrometry, etc. can effectively scan - or the business case for using other methods of exploration.

Anyway, I'm pretty optimistic that more fissile materials will be found. I think a great deal of hope exists in technologies for spent fuel reprocessing, though again I'm no expert in that field.

By Mint on 2/26/2010 12:49:01 PM , Rating: 2
Ore is a very low part of total nuclear power costs. Natural U308 is currently ~$100 per kg, but if price went up 5x you'd only add one cent per kWh in generation cost.

Japan has found that you can absorb uranium out of the oceans at a cost of around $500/kg, and it will last thousands of years, and possibly millions of years. The uranium dissolved into the water by reaching equilibrium with the ocean floor, and underwater volcanoes and tectonic movement will replenish that as we suck it out.

RE: Biofuel alternative energy - Bllom Box
By porkpie on 2/22/2010 1:47:58 PM , Rating: 5
"The necessary radioactive ores are too diffuse"

What nonsense is this? Radioactive source are 8 orders of magnitude more energetic than chemical sources (thats 100,000,000 times). Other than a possible future source of antimatter, nothing tops the energy density of nuclear.

Nuclear is our cheapest source of energy. Even with our insane regulatory structure, we are currently generating nuclear power for 1.9 cents/Kw-h in the US. And that's with reactors built with 1960-era technology. Modern reactor designs could cut that in half or more again.

A reactor takes about 5-7 years to build...but it can operate 60 or even 80 years. Furthermore, the more we build, the cheaper they get. (Custom one-off designs are much more expensive than mass-production).

When one factors in the gargantuan amounts of steel, concrete, and other resources that wind turbines require per Kw-h generated (all of which must be mined and produced), nuclear power results in far less environmental damage, as well as being many times cheaper and far more reliable.

"They are technologically (both operating systems and mechanical) obsolete before the last concrete poured is cured"

Sheer lunacy. Our "obsolete" nuclear reactors built in the 1960s are still producing power ten times cheaper than the best solar power cells built in 2010.

RE: Biofuel alternative energy - Bllom Box
By ddugger on 2/22/10, Rating: -1
RE: Biofuel alternative energy - Bllom Box
By porkpie on 2/22/2010 4:21:41 PM , Rating: 3
"You did not address the costs of mining and processing uranium ores with petroleum fuels "

Well bright boy, what do you think is used to mine and refine the gargantuan quantities of steel, concrete, copper, glass, rare earths, and other resources that wind and solar require?

Wind and solar are far more expensive than nuclear for a reason. They require enormous amounts of resources for very little produced power.

"My local power comes from a nuclear plant - we pay 25 to 30 cents per KWH."

Considering the average US cost per Kwh is 12.9 cents and no state in the union pays 30 cents, I consider this little factoid to be incorrect:

"I have nothing against nuclear power "

Considering your FUD attempt to drag Chernobyl into the picture, I find that unlikely.

Chernobyl was a positive-void coeeficient reactor. In non-technical terms, it means if the cooling system fails, the reactor output escalates until meltdown occurs. That's a design the Western world rightly considered far too dangerous to ever build.

How about we judge the entire solar power industry by the worst (not the best) solar cell we could build in 1950? Would that be a fair comparison?

Furthermore, had the Soviet government not tried to hush up Chernobyl, and actually evacuated residents after the accident and treated people immediate with potassium iodine, the actual n

STILL worse is the fact that, even ignoring all the above, Chernobyl still killed fewer people than coal powered power plants do each and every single year.

In the US, no commercial nuclear power plant has EVER killed or even injured anyone. No one at all..despite a half century of operation. That's a record that not even wind and solar can match.

Learn a little. You'll embarrass yourself less that way.

RE: Biofuel alternative energy - Bllom Box
By eachus on 2/22/2010 7:34:21 PM , Rating: 3
In the US, no commercial nuclear power plant has EVER killed or even injured anyone. No one at all..despite a half century of operation. That's a record that not even wind and solar can match.

Not quite true. There was one accident at Surry Unit 2 in Virginia, where two employees sneaking a cigarette break in an off-limits area were killed when the emergency steam relief valve released. (There was a reason why the area was off-limits.) Four people were killed and four more injured when a feed water pipe ruptured at the same plant 14 years later.

In addition there have been fatal accidents during construction. The worst construction accident, at Willow Island, West Virginia, killed 51 people. Basically the most recent ring of concrete around the cooling tower hadn't fully hardened and ripped loose when a crane started hoisting more concrete. The "safety nets" were anything but, and were carried away with the concrete, preventing any workers from escaping.

How does this compare to the record for coal? More people have been killed by trains carrying coal to power plants than all of the nuclear power related deaths. Worse, burning coal releases radioactive fly ash into the air. It isn't very radioactive, but the total release is in the thousands of tons per year.

By porkpie on 2/22/2010 8:34:10 PM , Rating: 3
"Not quite true..."

Let me rephrase it to say no radiological accident has ever killed or injured anyone. A pipe carrying water to a reactor is not what most people would think of when referring to "a nuclear accident".

RE: Biofuel alternative energy - Bllom Box
By Reclaimer77 on 2/22/10, Rating: 0
RE: Biofuel alternative energy - Bllom Box
By porkpie on 2/22/2010 7:57:11 PM , Rating: 3
"...than the risks involved with being bathed in high intensity radiation from a reactor meltdown."

No offense, but even at Chernobyl, the only people "bthed in high-intensity radiation" were those workers actually inside the facility. Everyone else affected by the accident had exactly what you describe from coal -- a slight increased risk of cancer, primarily thyroid.

Three Mile Island is a much better example of what might happen with a US-designed reactor. The TMI incident gave nearby residents less radiation than they receive from a single cross-country plane flight, or even what you get from spending a short vacation in Denver (the higher altitude increases background radiation counts).

By ar0x on 2/22/2010 11:58:47 PM , Rating: 2
No offense, but even at Chernobyl, the only people "bthed in high-intensity radiation" were those workers actually inside the facility.
Tell that to all firefighters and people who dropped hundreds of tons of sand, lead, concrete on the melted core from helicopters, I'm sure they will be happy... As will be children born with with severe malformation due to radiations...

ps: I'm for the use of nuclear power.

RE: Biofuel alternative energy - Bllom Box
By Amiga500 on 2/23/2010 3:33:51 AM , Rating: 3
STILL worse is the fact that, even ignoring all the above, Chernobyl still killed fewer people than coal powered power plants do each and every single year.

Again, correct.

The radioactive releases from coal plants dwarf that from nuclear plants.

You may be interested to know the UN officially attributed the number of dead directly from Chernobyl to 56. There may be ~4000 extra cancer deaths from ~600,000 exposures.

Not exactly the frightening numbers the tree hugging hippies are looking for. Here are (supposedly) the number of coal miner deaths in the US :

1990: 66 deaths,
1991: 61 deaths,
1992: 55 deaths,
1993: 47 deaths,
1994: 45 deaths,
1995: 47 deaths,
1996: 39 deaths,
1997: 30 deaths,
1998: 29 deaths,
1999: 35 deaths,
2000: 38 deaths,
2001: 42 deaths,
2002: 27 deaths,
2003: 30 deaths,
2004: 28 deaths,
2005: 23 deaths,
2006: 47 deaths,
2007: 33 deaths,
2008: 29 deaths.

Nuclear still that big killer that Greenpeace would have you believe?

By Mint on 2/26/2010 1:06:31 PM , Rating: 2
It pisses me off to no end what Greenpeace did and continues to do with nuclear power. They are the BIGGEST single cause of CO2 emissions on the planet.

They do jack in stopping coal plant construction but killed the nuclear industry, obviously because even they knew that if you're against nuclear then coal is the only other option.

And this is coming from someone who believes AGW is real (though not even close to a problem big enough to warrant today's cost premium of solar/wind).

How ironic that an environmental organization will never, ever be able to reverse the damage they caused on the planet. What a useless organization.

RE: Biofuel alternative energy - Bllom Box
By porkpie on 2/22/2010 4:34:42 PM , Rating: 3
"At 45 she has already had a complete hysterectomy from uterine tumors."

I wanted to address this little piece of idiocy separately. Uterine and related endometrial cancers are caused by hormonal imbalances, obesity, genetics, and a few other factors. NOT radiation. Your wife's problem was not caused by Chernobyl.

To the uneducated mind, radiation equates automatically to cancer. But the risk factors from isotopes like Cs-137 and Sr-90 are confined almost exclusively to thyroid cancer. There is some very slight elevation potential for lung cancer. But uterine cancer? Not a chance in the world.

By whiskerwill on 2/22/2010 4:58:28 PM , Rating: 2
But uterine cancer? Not a chance in the world.
Maybe she was using some debris from Chernobyl as a sex toy? That might explain it.

RE: Biofuel alternative energy - Bllom Box
By drmo on 2/22/2010 5:09:10 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe not:

This tells that endometriosis (not cancer, but still "tumors") in some areas increased 2.5 times:

Also: and

And as you say, hormonal imbalances can lead to uterine tumors, and thyroidal and other hormonal imbalances were common after Chernobyl.

On the other hand, there is no knowing if a single case of tumors or cancer was caused by a certain occurence, but apparently the risk for many tumors was increased.

RE: Biofuel alternative energy - Bllom Box
By porkpie on 2/22/2010 5:36:47 PM , Rating: 2
"This tells that endometriosis (not cancer, but still "tumors") in some areas increased 2.5 times:"

Two of those papers were written by the same author, an author who incidentally disagrees sharply with world scientific opinion as to the effects of Chernobyl:

Alexey Yablokov is a prominent Russian environmentalist, former member of USSR parliament and environmental advisor...Yablokov has been active in many efforts to reveal conservation and pollution challenges in Russia addressing such issues as illegal whaling. Yablokov focuses on the problems of radiation contamination...

"And as you say, hormonal imbalances can lead to uterine tumors, and thyroidal and other hormonal imbalances were common after Chernobyl."

The thyroid does not produce progesterone, estrogen or any of the other hormones that affect the risk of endometrial cancer. Linking this woman -- who lived nearly 1000 miles from the accident -- to Chernobyl is superstitious witch-doctor quackery, plain and simple.

RE: Biofuel alternative energy - Bllom Box
By drmo on 2/22/2010 6:25:08 PM , Rating: 2
If you are so quick to criticize sources, then give some of your own. These are review articles, and they cite numerous sources.

I did not say the thyroid produced the other hormones. I said other hormone imbalances (in addition to thyroid) were altered after Chernobyl.

I did agree that the woman's single case was not necessarily linked. However, radiation reached all the way to England, Greece, and the United States, for example. So, while not scientific, I understand why people could be concerned that their tumors could be linked to the accident.

Finally, calling things idiocy and quackery is not a productive means of educating someone.

By porkpie on 2/22/2010 8:30:44 PM , Rating: 3
"...radiation reached all the way to England, Greece, and the United States"

As frightening as that sounds, one has to remember we can detect the decay of a single atom with ease nowadays. The actual increase in radiation in Europe excluding areas adjacent the reactor averaged about 100 uSv -- or 10 mrems.

How much is a dose of 10mrem? Normal background radiation is about 300 mrems a year. If you choose to live in Denver, you can double that. Live in a New England or Rocky Mountain area where radon is a problem, and you can get a dose of 1,000-1,500 mrems a year...all from natural sources.

Fly cross country and back, and you can get a dose of close to 10 mrems. Eat a banana a day for 3 years, and you'll get a dose of 10 mrems (bananas contain radioactive potassium).

Radiation is all around us. If people had to carry a geiger counter around constantly, there would be a lot less of this superstitious fear of low-level radiation doses.

"calling things idiocy and quackery is not a productive means of educating someone"

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a it a duck.

RE: Biofuel alternative energy - Bllom Box
By Jeffk464 on 2/22/2010 2:36:34 PM , Rating: 2
Wait a second you say that new nuclear technology is developed every 5 years. But if you aren't building new plants you wont be developing the technology. So from your point it seems like we should build the plants, but not build to many at one time. However, you seem to be making the point that we should not build them at all.

By TheEinstein on 2/24/2010 7:00:49 AM , Rating: 2
Other nations are making these reactors all the time. Japan for instance, even though they are the ONLY nation to get nuked, they make them all the time... and research new ones constantly...

This thing is stupid
By mcnabney on 2/22/2010 10:51:09 AM , Rating: 3
It is a bizarre fuel cell, but there are a load of issues/ommisions in the article itself.

The first mistake is that it claims to be a remedy for fossil fuels, but then it reveals that it runs on methane (natural gas) and other hydrocarbons. FYI - that is what fossil fuels are. So this changes nothing.

It will still require a fuel source so it would be worthless in providing power to remote locations which are currently served by solar/wind power solutions with batteries.

Nowhere did it state how many KW/hrs of electricity it could produce per 1000 cubic feet of natural gas. There are currently many natural gas power plants and the first thing this Box has to do is be more efficient than existing technology. If there is no advantage in power efficiency than it would be amazingly stupid to replace a central power planet with thousands of smaller units. That would cost a fortune and devalue the existing investment in power lines and put considerable strain on natural gas supplies.

Remember, natural gas prices are extremely low right now. Two years ago they were over $12/1000 cubic feet and now they are $4. I would guess right now that the 'savings' that eBay is experiencing is related to low natural gas prices and eliminating the local power companies profit margin.

As a note, I am ALL ABOUT alternative energy, but this isn't it.

RE: This thing is stupid
By cghebert on 2/22/2010 10:58:35 AM , Rating: 2
I believe in the CBS story, it said the box used about half of the natural gas used by current systems.
They didn't give a KWh/cubic feet number though.

RE: This thing is stupid
By mcnabney on 2/22/2010 11:04:24 AM , Rating: 2
I found this in another article -
The five-kilowatt Bloom box has supposedly become “a high-functioning machine,” and the story even shows a picture of the white refrigerator-looking box. In a successful test at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga over the past two years, engineers ran a Bloom box on natural gas for 6,000 hours and found it to be twice as efficient as a boiler burning natural gas, with 60 percent lower carbon emissions. Kleiner partner Aileen Lee told Gertner that the Bloom box can produce electricity using natural gas or a variety of liquid fuels, including ethanol.

So if it shows efficiency like that versus existing technology it has a hope. However, it is still going to be tied to the price of natural gas. Having a watt/cubic foot data would be necessary to get an idea of potential savings. Then you would need to factor the cost of the device and the lifetime of the device. If the box requires 20 years to pay for itself and has an expected lifespan of 20 years this is much ado about nothing.

Also, I am not all that comfortable with a device that runs at 1000C sitting in my house. Just saying...

RE: This thing is stupid
By mcnabney on 2/22/2010 11:36:40 AM , Rating: 3
More info from a competitor

Their fuel cell product claims 60% efficiency and generates 2KWH from 12 cubic feet of natural gas. So with natural gas prices at $4/1k cubic feet existing fuel cell competitors can produce energy at rought 2.5 cents per KWH - which is a QUARTER of what my local power company charges me.
However, if natural gas goes back up to $12/1k cubic feet the energy cost is a lot closer to what I am charged right now by the power company.

RE: This thing is stupid
By slashbinslashbash on 2/22/2010 12:02:05 PM , Rating: 3
However, as you mentioned, natural gas fired generators are widely used already for electric generation by utilities. I'm sure that electric rates in most, if not all, of the country would go up if natural gas prices tripled. You can't hold one side of the equation static while you change the other to make your point.

I'm not defending this new product or anything, just commenting on a lapse in your logic (which up to now has been pretty good).

RE: This thing is stupid
By porkpie on 2/22/2010 12:20:12 PM , Rating: 2
A good point-- but natural gas accounts for only about 20% of our grid generation at present. So a company using these would by much more exposed to natural gas price spikes than would someone drawing from the grid.

RE: This thing is stupid
By mcnabney on 2/22/2010 2:12:37 PM , Rating: 3
Natural gas is generally one of the more expensive ways to generate electricity. They are cheap to build, but expensive to run. Coal plants cost a fortune to construct, but run fairly cheaply due to the low cost of coal (actually coal is up a bit, but is still amazingly low per energy content).
When demand for electricity is down the natural gas plant are the first to shut down their turbines. I drive past a coal and a gas power plant on the way to work. The coal plant is always on, but the gas one is off half of the time.

These devices have to be really cheap in order to make economic sense. Under the best situation in the midwest they would cut my electricity bill in half each month, but I only pay about $70/month to begin with on average - so saving ~$400 a year doesn't make financial sense if the damn thing costs $10,000. Carrying the risk of maintaining another expensive mechanical device for what would only be considered a long term incremental benefit makes no sense at all.

RE: This thing is stupid
By porkpie on 2/22/2010 2:40:21 PM , Rating: 2
"When demand for electricity is down the natural gas plant are the first to shut down their turbines"

Very true..and the more of these 'Bloom boxes' that are built, the higher the demand (and thus the price) for natural gas.

I wonder how feasible they are to run off hydrocarbon sources other than natural gas.

RE: This thing is stupid
By mcnabney on 2/24/2010 2:06:06 AM , Rating: 2
I have read that ethanol would work. I would also guess that propane would be almost guaranteed to work. I really was hoping to make progress away from difficult to transport hydrocarbons....sigh.

RE: This thing is stupid
By Mint on 2/26/2010 1:19:16 PM , Rating: 2
The thing about natural gas is that it's great for peaker plants. Coal plant operators don't want to make massive daily swings in output power due to the cyclic stresses being more costly than the fuel.

If you can use this device to more efficiently convert natural gas to electricity and to get your house off the grid during peak times, it could be very useful. It's also essential to have massive peaking capacity for any energy scheme involving solar and wind (which is why they are not worth it right now).

RE: This thing is stupid
By porkpie on 2/22/2010 2:43:08 PM , Rating: 2
"...which is a QUARTER of what my local power company charges me. However, if natural gas goes back up to $12/1k cubic feet the energy cost is a lot closer to what I am charged"

Don't forget that business customers (especially in California) are charged higher rates than residential consumers, particularly during high-demand periods.

RE: This thing is stupid
By marvdmartian on 2/23/2010 9:19:28 AM , Rating: 2
The only thing is, what's going to happen to natural gas prices when all of a sudden every house has one of these boxes, and the demand skyrockets?? My guess is that it's going to make electricity just as expensive as you're paying now.

Personally, I'm waiting for the "Mr. Fusion" machine, where I can stick in my banana peels, egg shells and beer cans, to make electricity! ;)

RE: This thing is stupid
By pastabrain76 on 2/24/2010 4:30:51 PM , Rating: 2
I forgot the utility companies only charge for NG. There's this little thing called capital recovery, operations, maintenance, overhead, etc... $0.025/KWH is not the cost of power out of this application.

At $250K for a 100 kW unit (I think that's what it was), you would be looking at $0.015/kWhr in capital recovery if you ignore capital costs altogether. Add that in and you are probably looking somewhere in the range of $0.04-$0.06 per KWH for capital recovery. Don't have a good estimate for O&M, but suffice it to say it ain't free.

A purchaser of this technology is not immune to the other costs of purchasing and operation. My gut feel. With cheap natural gas like we have now, this is economical. Move back to $12/MMBTU and we're back in the ballpark of uneconomical.

RE: This thing is stupid
By icrf on 2/22/2010 11:51:45 AM , Rating: 2
Do you have a link to that article? I work in Chattanooga and am kind of curious what's been happening a mile from the office.

RE: This thing is stupid
By mcnabney on 2/22/2010 2:25:46 PM , Rating: 3

There really isn't that much public about it. I am sure everyone at the university down to the janitor is under an NDA. A lot of venture capital has been sunk into this.

Also, just wondering why something that was developed at NASA using TAXPAYER DOLLARS slid so easily into the private sector and is now under patent.

RE: This thing is stupid
By drmo on 2/22/2010 3:40:38 PM , Rating: 3
I assume they had to pay the federal government for the rights. Probably it was done through the provisions of the Bayh-Dole Act.

Briefly, the federal government is lousy at actually commercializing inventions, so they sell the rights to private businesses or non-profits (often Universities) who invented it (using government funds) to make money off an invention.

RE: This thing is stupid
By shin0bi272 on 2/25/2010 10:01:29 AM , Rating: 2
Actually the plates that make the power generation possible only last 2 years then you have to replace them... so essentially double your TCO from what you were expecting.

RE: This thing is stupid
By Shig on 2/22/10, Rating: 0
RE: This thing is stupid
By mcnabney on 2/22/2010 11:16:28 AM , Rating: 3
Combustion and fuel cells to the exact same thing. They capture the energy that is released when a hydrocarbon is oxidized. They both are methods of taking two molecules of CH4 and four molecules of O2 and making two molecules of CO2 and four molecules of H2O plus energy. A fuel cell can more efficiently capture that energy than using the heat to run a boiler that turns a generator.

So we are still making CO2, just needing to make less of it due to efficiency.

However, making all of these little boxes isn't done by magic. How much energy is required to produce them?

ReCoup costs...
By AmbroseAthan on 2/22/2010 10:27:27 AM , Rating: 3
To get a view of the cost and benefits, eBay installed 5 of the boxes nine months ago. It says it has saved $100,000 USD on energy since. So assuming the maximum cost -- $4M USD -- the investment on a Bloom Box would appear to take 40 years to recoup.

Umm, it would take 30 years, not 40. They will save $133,333 in a year (they saved 100k in 9 months, so (100k/9)*12).

$4million divided by $133,333/year is ~30 years.

I am not normally picky about errors, but you are off by a decade. It is still a long return on the investment though.

RE: ReCoup costs...
By Xenoterranos on 2/22/2010 10:40:17 AM , Rating: 2
I'd like to see efficiency comparisons between this and a similar-power-output gas turbine generator. From the looks of it though, this would probably win on noise output alone!

RE: ReCoup costs...
By ImSpartacus on 2/22/2010 12:41:47 PM , Rating: 2
No kidding, we've got a massive backup generator outside work. I've been in there while it was getting installed. It has a ton of padding in the walls to minimize the noise.

Thank god we don't have to have it on constantly.

RE: ReCoup costs...
By Richardito on 2/22/2010 10:41:45 AM , Rating: 1
Money has a time component (interest) that you are not taking into consideration. This is specially true when you are performing an analysis dealing with a multi decade period (like this is). Without this the analysis is useless.

RE: ReCoup costs...
By Yawgm0th on 2/22/2010 11:27:12 AM , Rating: 2
You mean inflation. Assume the price of energy increases at roughly the same pace as the average of all other goods or better yet, the same pace as the Bloom Box. There's no reason to think that long-term savings are going to be much different with inflation. If we extrapolate a 30-year savings based on current prices, it will most likely pay for itself within 25-35 years, adjusting for inflation.

On the other hand, the price of energy and the price of the Bloom Box will both change in unexpected ways over the next 30 years. Energy and energy sources are not bread. Sweeping changes in available resources or technology can drastically alter the cost very quickly. I would conjecture it is impossible to come up with a reliable savings analysis on something like this over such a long period, and certainly no rational business would attempt to.

It won't make sense financially unless it can be estimated to save money in a much shorter period of time, probably under a decade.

RE: ReCoup costs...
By mcnabney on 2/22/2010 11:42:27 AM , Rating: 2
Now factor in maintenance and useful lifespan. If it goes off-warranty in ten years and needs replacement you are in a serious money-losing proposition.

In order to change from our current system of centralized power we are going to need a much more cost efficient device to replace it. In fact, these things might likely be first moved-out to the public as an all-in-one heat pump unit that can efficiently manage electricity/heating/cooling in a single system. That is likely to be the best way to minimize the capital cost of the device.

RE: ReCoup costs...
By kas1234567 on 2/22/2010 12:08:45 PM , Rating: 2
Wrong!! You're forgetting the fact this eBay supposedly dished out $4 million TODAY. That money didn't come from thin air. It came from eBay shareholders.

eBay shareholders took a big risk by investing in a tech company (volatile business environment, low barrier for competitors, etc ...) --- they did not take this risk so they could just get the inflation rate returned on their money. If they wanted that, they would have invested with the US Government. They expected a much MUCH higher return -- a very very conservative estimate would be 10%.

So if any investment that eBay makes is expected to return less than that "discount rate", eBay should not be making the investment; they should either invest in something else, or return the money to their shareholders in the form of dividends.

When you discount the future savings by this rate, the payback period becomes much longer (possibly even infinite).

Basically if you save 1 dollar 10 years from now, you are not saving 1 dollar, but rather 1/1.1^10 = 38 cents (assuming a 10% discount rate). Please read wikipedia about time value of money and discounted cash flow for more info.

RE: ReCoup costs...
By porkpie on 2/22/2010 12:09:40 PM , Rating: 2
" they did not take this risk so they could just get the inflation rate returned on their money. If they wanted that, they would have invested with the US Government. They expected a much MUCH higher return "

You're forgetting the goodwill factor. Companies are investing in green technology not so much for the savings (which in many cases, turn out to be HIGHER costs) for the goodwill they believe it generates for them with the public.

RE: ReCoup costs...
By kas1234567 on 2/22/2010 12:25:37 PM , Rating: 2
if you do the math, you will see that this investment can basically never be net-positive (even if eBay could borrow money at the US treasury rate).

now, of course there is the goodwill factor (i.e.: this is merely a marketing expense being masqueraded as an investment project). at a minimum, this would be lying to your shareholders. also, i would honestly like to see the anlaysis that went into justifying this expense (or similar investments made by companies). i'm pretty sure handing out candy on the street will generate more goodwill than this. remember, the average person does not read everyday. the average person, also probably does not REALLY care about "green" technology.

RE: ReCoup costs...
By porkpie on 2/22/2010 12:54:44 PM , Rating: 2
Not when you work in the state and federal tax incentives these boxes generate. As previously stated, they may cut the initial cost by up to 50%.

Of course, in reality that merely shifts the cost of these boxes from Ebay onto us, the taxpaying citizen.

RE: ReCoup costs...
By porkpie on 2/22/2010 2:46:27 PM , Rating: 2
I'd like to add that, by purchasing these boxes, a company like Google or Ebay can likely eliminate a substantial cost they pay to maintain backup generators.

Add to that the tax incentives, the potential goodwill factor, and the ROI time drops substantially more.

RE: ReCoup costs...
By mcnabney on 2/22/2010 3:19:59 PM , Rating: 3
I am surprised that nobody has mentioned that buying these devices is going ot come out of the Capital budget as a big chunk instead of as a small steady stream through the Operating budget.

I can tell you right now that financially speaking businesses HATE moving expenses that had previously been on operating budgets onto the capital side. Even if you can save a TON of money it is unlikely to happen.

RE: ReCoup costs...
By Drag0nFire on 2/22/2010 11:30:23 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, but we also have to take into account the cost of methane, right? Unless the $700,000 includes perpetual fuel...

I have to believe that if this technology worked, power companies would adopt it in large scale. Economies of scale mean it is never efficient to generate energy in the small scale (ie an individual corporation like Ebay).

RE: ReCoup costs...
By GaryJohnson on 2/22/2010 12:15:18 PM , Rating: 2
Economies of scale mean it is never efficient to generate energy in the small scale (ie an individual corporation like Ebay).

While there is an economy of scale in power generation, there is a diseconomy of scale in power distribution.

RE: ReCoup costs...
By Drag0nFire on 2/22/2010 12:57:11 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, but I have to believe that distributing fuel cells / methane is more expensive/inefficient than distributing electricity.

RE: ReCoup costs...
By HotFoot on 2/22/2010 1:40:12 PM , Rating: 2
This is a pretty good point - if the infrastructure for the fuel doesn't already exist, then installing the pipes could tilt the whole thing to failure.

On the other hand, natural gas lines are very widespread. I don't have any figures, but I wouldn't be surprised if the majority of homes where I'm from are heated with natural gas. Using a high-temperature fuel cell for home power generation could make a tremendous amount of sense, if the efficiency is high enough. Use the waste heat for heating the home or in an absorption chiller for air conditioning and you could be looking at a 70-80% utilisation factor for the fuel. That would represent a significant improvement over the status quo, using largely the installed base of infrastructure.

Of course, it's still a big capital investment, even if they get the cost of such systems down.

RE: ReCoup costs...
By mcnabney on 2/24/2010 2:15:46 AM , Rating: 2
Urban and almost all suburban homes are connected to or within reach of natural gas lines. Rural areas will use propane, which is delivered by truck, when they desire a gas heating or cooking option. However, almost every house is already hooked up to electricity - so the infrastructure is already there.

I don't know what improvements would need to be done to natural gas storage and distribution assets to support a large increase in usage. Pipes only provide so much capacity and storage facilities only hold so much gas. Changes will have to be made if demand rises dramatically.

RE: ReCoup costs...
By Orac4prez on 2/22/2010 5:15:17 PM , Rating: 2
Hmmm.... You havent even included the cost of capital (ie interest over that time.)

God Jason, not again
By porkpie on 2/22/2010 12:07:44 PM , Rating: 2
I know how much you love to push solar power, but this:
EBay says the five boxes generate more clean energy than the company's 3,000 solar panels (assuming a bulk cost of $200/panel, and additional expense that system would run around $1M USD, at a minimum). Given those numbers the Bloom Box certainly doesn't appear to be cheaper than solar power
Did you forget the little fact that the actual AMOUNT of power those solar panels generate is a crucial part of that equation? A solar panel doesn't consistently generate the maximum power figure printed on its backplate. In fact, solar typicallly generates only about 20% of its maximum rated output...and it can be even less in high latitude or cloudy areas.

RE: God Jason, not again
By Jeffk464 on 2/22/2010 2:45:24 PM , Rating: 2
Yup, solar should only be used in sunny locations like Arizona and wind power should be used in windy locations like mountain passes. Thats kind of a no brainer. But the fact is we always need a reliable power plant to back these up, such as nuclear.

RE: God Jason, not again
By porkpie on 2/22/2010 4:02:12 PM , Rating: 2
Which then begs the question that, if we need the nuclear plants anyway-- why build the solar cells and wind turbines in the first place?

Personally, I love the idea of decentralized energy independence that solar conjures up. But until (if ever) we see a quantum leap forward or two in the technology, it'll always be a pipe dream.

RE: God Jason, not again
By Reclaimer77 on 2/22/2010 4:14:40 PM , Rating: 2
Solar IS a pipe dream. Even at 100% efficiency, which will never be possible, there is simply a flat limit at how much energy the sun puts out. It isn't really all that much honestly. Not nearly enough to be be dependent upon on a large scale.

There is also that whole pesky nighttime issue...

RE: God Jason, not again
By porkpie on 2/22/2010 5:44:51 PM , Rating: 3
"there is simply a flat limit at how much energy the sun puts out. It isn't really all that much honestly"

The earth's surface receives a bit more than 100,000 Terawatts of power. Mankind currently only use about 20 Terawatts globally, combining all current energy sources.

Still, that statistic is highly misleading. To make effective use of solar power, we need to both collect and store it...and we need enormous technological advances in both fronts before we could ever think of replacing baseline power with solar. And even then, we have land use issues...papering over an entire state with solar cells is not an attractive option, and would lead to more environmental damage than even a coal plant generates.

RE: God Jason, not again
By Reclaimer77 on 2/22/2010 7:19:27 PM , Rating: 2
The earth's surface receives a bit more than 100,000 Terawatts of power.

Umm yeah if we could cover every square inch with panels dude lol.

RE: God Jason, not again
By porkpie on 2/22/2010 8:40:19 PM , Rating: 2
I was correcting your claim that "there really isn't a lot of energy from the sun". There's plenty. The problem is collecting and storing it. Until we can do both cheaply, solar power is a pipe dream.

RE: God Jason, not again
By namechamps on 2/23/2010 10:11:34 AM , Rating: 2
Still doesn't change the fact that your statement couldn't be further from the true.

Even at 100% efficiency, which will never be possible, there is simply a flat limit at how much energy the sun puts out. It isn't really all that much honestly. Not nearly enough to be be dependent upon on a large scale.

Really? Do they not teach science in school anymore.

Suns output that strikes the earth is 3,850,000 EJ (exajoules). Mans global annual usage (in all forms heating, transportation, electricity) is roughly 487 EJ.

The sun doesn't provide "nearly enough".

Even with 0.05% (not 5 percent 5 hundreds of a percent) of land covered with 100% efficient panels that would provide about 2000 EJ or roughly 4x energy used by mankind. Even allowing for an unrealistic 80% loss in storage, transmission that is enough energy to power EVERYTHING man does with 0.05% land use.

[b]I am not saying solar is the answer.[/b] But your "claim" isn't even in the right ballpark as far as accuracy.

Major stumbling block on solar is efficiency and cost. While there are panels at 30% efficiency they are not economical. Most panels run 18% efficiency and are about $5 per watt. This makes them too large and too costly for most uses. However that is at $5 and 18%.

At $1 per watt (which I concede may never be possible) installed solar would replace most forms of power for the majority of the planet. Payback time would be about 6-7.

Incremental progess
By Terrybur1024 on 2/22/2010 12:48:25 PM , Rating: 2
Several somewhat random thoughts

One problem with remotely generated power is that there is an about 50% loss in electricity over power lines. It would appear this device is roughly as efficient as other present day power generating methods but it is much easier to generate on site and or very local.

This device would eliminate the need for additional power lines into areas that are growing but on the other hand it would leave the pollution in the area that the power is being generated. This is both good and bad. The good part is that users would become more willing to make the use of their power more efficient so not to pollute in their own back yards.

Even if this is not as efficient as it claims I can see this as a much better alternative to gas or propane generators. I live in the mountains which means power outages and the dread of the maintaince tasks required for my gas powered generator.(which is very polluting)

I believe this may be a significant alternative to using coal powered plans. Even as technology stands today natural gas is a cleaner alternative. Having the ability to locally produce needed electricity would be the addded advantage.

The issues around how many years it would take to pay off the investments of these units is phoney. Energy prices are going to go up. How much? No one knows.

Right now in the US we have more of our own nat gas than oil. I would rather use that and this product to produce electricity for plug in electric or hybrid cars than oil.

RE: Incremental progess
By porkpie on 2/22/2010 12:57:06 PM , Rating: 2
"One problem with remotely generated power is that there is an about 50% loss in electricity over power lines"

Huh? Actual line losses average about 7-8% in the US, depending on location.

RE: Incremental progess
By franzius on 2/22/2010 4:01:35 PM , Rating: 2
Actual power line loss is closer to 30% actually. Location variation does not change that loss too much.

RE: Incremental progess
By porkpie on 2/22/2010 5:48:41 PM , Rating: 2
Your link doesn't work, and the parent points to "Sam's Home Page", full of "physics stuff".

This rather more reputable source from the US government lists line losses in the US at 7.2%

And losses DO vary by location. In California, for instance, which now purchases a large portion of its power from out of state, the power is transmitted further, which equates to a higher loss factor.

RE: Incremental progess
By namechamps on 2/23/2010 1:04:21 PM , Rating: 2
Not even close. More like 7% to 10%.

RE: Incremental progess
By franzius on 2/23/2010 4:11:27 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry about the link. It was changed since the last time I used it. Anyway I found it again. The info is the same and relates to current power transmission line technology. Check it out.

RE: Incremental progess
By porkpie on 2/23/2010 7:16:02 PM , Rating: 2
Ah, you misread the link. The site states that losses 'can be as high as 30% over long distances'. True, but that's not the average line loss in the US.

We intentionally don't transmit power over lengthy distances for just that reason.

By someguy743 on 2/22/2010 11:40:29 AM , Rating: 2
I hope that Bloom Energy is "for real" and not a bunch of hype. I certainly like what I read in this article:

"Bloom Energy's current product is a relatively inexpensive and versatile fuel cell that can power roughly 100 American homes. The devices cost $700,000 a piece an are roughly TWICE AS EFFICIENT AS NATURAL GAS POWER TRANSMITTED THROUGH THE GRID."

TWICE as efficient as natural gas power transmitted through the grid sounds revolutionary to me! I just hope that Bloom Energy is torture testing the heck out of their Bloom boxes and they can make them ultra reliable and long lasting. Of course, the more inexpensive the better.

I think a $3,000 Bloom box in my house would be very do-able if you can also hook the house to the grid as a backup measure. The Bloom box is also going to need to have the capacity to "quick charge" the upcoming electric cars that are on the way. It would be awesome to (someday) be able to quick charge my Chevy Volt in just a few minutes. Even better would be putting a small Bloom box under the hood of my Volt as the range extender and rip out the old fashioned internal combustion engine!

This Bloom Energy box could be great if natural gas prices stay low. I hear that America is pretty rich when it comes to natural gas these days because there's new methods of getting it out of the ground and there's a bunch of places in Pennsylvania and New York where there's at least 100 years worth of supply underground.

I bet in 10 years or so, there will be cheap, renewable, carbon neutral ALGAE BASED FUELS we could use as a replacement for the natural gas.

If Bloom Energy's technology is ultra reliable and cheap it's going to freak out the coal, nuclear, and electric utility industries ... that's for sure. But that's America. When better technology comes along, it's "out with the old, in with the NEW".

Man, I hope these Bloom boxes aren't just hype and they really are revolutionary. We need some huge breakthroughs in the next 10 years. America needs another "next big thing" to come along to pull us out of this god awful recession that Wall Street caused.

By rbroach on 2/22/2010 12:01:28 PM , Rating: 3
The "twice as efficient" claim is based on the inefficiency of transmitting power over the electrical grid. So that refers to distributed electrical generation in general, not to Bloom Boxes specifically. If the point of Bloom Boxes is to do a better job of small-scale electricity generation, than the valid comparisons are to propane generators (which you could go buy right now). But I don't see anything about those comparisons. What I do see is a lot of obsfucation about exactly what this thing does better than anything else.

By porkpie on 2/22/2010 12:27:10 PM , Rating: 2
"The "twice as efficient" claim is based on the inefficiency of transmitting power over the electrical grid"

But grid losses in the US are only about 7%. Even excluding those, this would seem to be considerably more efficient than a natural gas boiler...if the company's claims are correct.

By Jacerie on 2/22/2010 12:29:01 PM , Rating: 1
Even better would be putting a small Bloom box under the hood of my Volt as the range extender and rip out the old fashioned internal combustion engine!

Why would anyone want a device that operates at 1000C installed in their vehicle? Would you even be able to shield that much heat from the rest of the vehicle and still keep an efficient weight?

By corduroygt on 2/22/2010 12:41:19 PM , Rating: 2
Exhaust gas temperatures of regular cars can reach about 1400F, which is 760C. 1000C doesn't sound impossible, although I'm sure there would be significant engineering challenges.

what if
By lenardo on 2/22/2010 11:14:06 AM , Rating: 2
the box Directly makes energy, and it is pretty damn hot.

how hot, how close is the question..if it could be oooh 300c -just-outside the box- or modify the box so that pipes could go in and out of said box, could someone not toss in a steam turbine's tubing and use steam turbines AND the box to generate electricity?

If a residential unit would cost 3k (or 6k with subsidies) and can run off of propane, i'd change my boiler to electric and use one to generate power-i'd size it to be slightly more than i consume so that the power plant would have to pay ME...and i'd use that money to pay for the propane....

RE: what if
By jsinnp on 2/22/2010 11:33:56 AM , Rating: 2
You wouldn't necessarily have to change your boiler to electricity. Since it's generating that much heat, no reason why it can't effectively be the boiler also - just run pipes from it to a unit that exchanges heat with the pipes running through your house, or if forced air heat a heat exchange with the air flow.

The possibility that the same device to provide heat as well as electricity seems a bonus for those of us living in colder climes. A really efficient propane furnace is over $1,000. Paying $3-6K to get electricity and have a heat source sounds attractive.

RE: what if
By porkpie on 2/22/2010 1:05:07 PM , Rating: 2
", could someone not toss in a steam turbine's tubing and use steam turbines AND the box to generate electricity?"

You can only do that if the box's output temperature exceeds 100C...which I 'm guessing, it doesn't.

If you ran a steam turbine's tubing through the box's interior, you could operate the turbine...but only by reducing the efficiency of the fuel cell itself.

RE: what if
By johnsonx on 2/22/2010 3:45:18 PM , Rating: 3
Why does everyone keep trying to violate the laws of physics?

Runs on methane or other hydrocarbon?
By The Eskimo on 2/22/2010 10:52:38 AM , Rating: 1
Could we attach one of these to the smoke stack of a power plant, and put those pesky emmissions to good use?

RE: Runs on methane or other hydrocarbon?
By mcnabney on 2/22/2010 11:23:20 AM , Rating: 2
Hydrocarbons do not go out of 'smokestacks'

CO2, CO, and particulate matter go up with a lot of waste heat.

RE: Runs on methane or other hydrocarbon?
By alphavegas on 2/22/2010 12:04:14 PM , Rating: 2
You are confused. Here's what comes out of smoke stacks. You must have forgot about sulfuric, carbonic, and nitric acids, uranium, thorium, ash, methane, nitrous oxide, halocarbons (not produced in nature), and sulfur hexafluoride (not produced in nature), volatile organic compounds, ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, AND (drum roll...) mercury.

By porkpie on 2/22/2010 12:14:00 PM , Rating: 2
He's not confused; you simply misread his post. There are not large amounts of energy-containing hydrocarbons emitted from power plant smokestacks.

While you are correct that there are pollutants released, you're not going to be able to collect and combust them for power.

By ebaycj on 2/22/2010 10:50:16 AM , Rating: 3
It's "en masse" not "in mass".

RE: Caption.
By GaryJohnson on 2/22/2010 11:59:55 AM , Rating: 3
"en masse" is the french of "in mass"

How can it be one and not the other if they mean the same thing?

Bloom box
By sandybob on 2/22/2010 11:12:09 AM , Rating: 2
if it requires 1000C to operate it maybe possible to capture the heat and use it some where else, say a heater in the winter or heat your hot water heater. this box is the wheel re-invented give it time to explore its capabilities.

RE: Bloom box
By ipay on 2/22/2010 11:21:10 AM , Rating: 4
Funny, I seem to remember them saying that about the Segway, too.

Yes, yes
By wompirebat on 2/22/2010 10:15:25 AM , Rating: 2
those are some fanciful numbers and all... but um, "how do it work?"
How long does the fuel supply last?
What does it use for fuel?
What are maintenance costs?

Oh, nevermind. Just thrill me with some more claims!

RE: Yes, yes
By SilthDraeth on 2/22/2010 10:29:19 AM , Rating: 3
It looks like it runs on used Polaroid pictures. So we know the fuel source.

I would be willing to bet, with the invention of film cameras several years ago, and the rapid advance in digital cameras, that the fuel source is already virtually unattainable.

Waste heat
By SethSpeaks on 2/22/2010 12:36:57 PM , Rating: 2
If the unit actually generates heat at 1,000C, then it could create high quality steam... and then the steam could be used to turn a turbine... and more electricity!

RE: Waste heat
By PCFerret on 2/22/2010 12:32:46 PM , Rating: 2
Good point!

RE: Waste heat
By porkpie on 2/22/2010 12:47:02 PM , Rating: 1
Not a good point; thermodynamics doesn't work that way. The 1000C is the working temperature. You can only extract heat without losses at the output reservoir, which I'm assuming is going to be far cooler.

Madam entropy is a bitch, but you have to live with her.

By PCFerret on 2/22/2010 12:31:59 PM , Rating: 2
If he can produce a unit that runs on AIR (not oxygen) and natural gas, AND will cost in the $3K-$5K with enough power for a single-family US home, I'll buy it!

RE: IF...
By porkpie on 2/22/2010 1:13:20 PM , Rating: 2
I doubt the box is being fed pure oxygen. I believe the phrasing merely means its using atmospheric O2.

fuel cells require fuel
By invidious on 2/22/2010 1:10:26 PM , Rating: 2
What does this thing run on? Solar power turns free solar rays into energy. This thing may consume (free?) oxygen and turn it into energy + CO2, but what does this device consume to heat itself up to 1000C?

RE: fuel cells require fuel
By porkpie on 2/22/2010 1:50:08 PM , Rating: 2
Natural gas.

Apples & Oranges, Solar & Bloom Box
By TomHunter on 2/22/2010 10:05:46 PM , Rating: 2
I protest the comparison. Solar produces no CO2 and so I see this product as disqualified right off the bat. The whole point of going green is to reduce our carbon footprint. This fuel cell device is certainly clever but it represents a re-organization of the chairs on the deck of the Titanic.

Secondly, if this gentleman came up with this idea while he worked for NASA trying to think of colonies on Mars, then why is he hawking this taxpayer-financed idea in the private marketplace? Cashing in, eh? Thanks for the support in getting me rich, Taxpayers.

By porkpie on 2/22/2010 10:18:43 PM , Rating: 2
"Solar produces no CO2"

Why do you care if solar produces CO2? YOU produce CO2...and CO2 is nothing but airborne plant food, essential for all life on earth.

With the earth having stopped warming in 1995, and now a slight coolin trend having set in, earlier claims about catastrophic warming now appear quite ridiculous.

By robert60 on 2/23/2010 12:45:09 PM , Rating: 2
I was once inclined to be wary of "revolutionary" ideas or technology anouncements,then my wife came in the room and turned on the radio and we listened to the anouncement of the atomic bombing of Japan.If only it were snake oil...

By DougF on 2/24/2010 8:25:44 AM , Rating: 2
Assuming you were at least 18 in 1945 (unless you are from Tennessee and married at 16 or earlier), that would put you in the 83ish age-range. So, congrats for three things are in order: First, on still being on this side of the grass; Second, being cognitive enough to participate in discussions; and Third, being internet savvy/interested in technology stuff enough to visit this website.

By alagba on 2/24/2010 7:23:35 AM , Rating: 2
First , I must state I found out about Bloom Energy on 60 minutes like most people , but I rise in their defense because of this misleading analysis.This is an analysis that is skewered and contorted beyond reason.I feel personally insulted that gets prints. I think everybody should spend a minute ,take pencil and paper and independently verify these assertions .

assuming $200 per panel and a total system cost of $1 million (including installation),

On what planet do you pay a bulk price of $200 per 216W solar panel i.e 95cents/watt (3,000 panels and 650-kW solar or $1.53cent per watt installed) with inverter , charge controller , wiring , labor , mounts and monitoring .You did not bother to find out when this Ebay solar was installed and the price at that time .

In your calculations , you pick the high or low figures as it favors your argument but inherently exposes an ignorance, laziness or worse , bias. You used $800K figure for Bloom purchase price and came up with a fairytale figure of 95cents per installed watt for Ebay solar.

Also , you forgot to state that there is a 20% California state subsidy and a 30% Federal tax incentive which brings the cost down to about 56% of price.

Even if we hold on to your numbers , off the bat , the recoup period becomes 16 years.

Without bothering anybody with arithmetic , the realistic recoup period for Bloom is probably about 13-14 years, not 30 years.

The solar installation at a very realistic , optimistic per watt installed cost will take much longer that 14 years with the Federal and State subsidies.

Please , never demur in the fervor of your conviction or position , but try to be factual and balanced .

By thepalinator on 2/28/2010 1:26:56 AM , Rating: 2
"On what planet do you pay a bulk price of $200 per 216W solar panel "

You forget, Jason never lets a fact stand in the way of a good article. Claiming the Bloom Box is more expensive than solar makes for good copy-- even though it couldn't be further from the truth.

Alternative Energy vs. Energy Efficiency
By rbroach on 2/22/2010 11:30:55 AM , Rating: 1
You'd think a publication named "Daily Tech" would be able to make the simple, fundamental distinction between Alternative Energy and Energy Efficiency. Alternative Energy means an energy source other than burning hydrocarbons. This box burns hydrocarbons and is therefore NOT Alternative Energy. It may burn hydrocarbons more efficiently, which is well and good. But an energy efficiency technology which depends on burning hydrocarbons and will need 30 to 40 years to recoup the initial investment is not something we, as a nation, should be spending time, money or tax incentives on. This is foolishness.

By porkpie on 2/22/2010 12:52:24 PM , Rating: 2
The ROI time period is based on initial cost. Initial cost for these boxes would be expected to decline considerably, as the company recoups development costs and ramps production.

If this box actually is twice as efficient as a conventional natural gas boiler, there is nothing whatsoever 'foolish' about investing in it.

By Murloc on 2/22/2010 10:49:43 AM , Rating: 2
until I see a table comparing this to a gas turbine I won't believe anything.
Maybe it's smaller but still, it burns a lot of fuel.

agriculture applications
By lagunabeach on 2/22/2010 11:49:01 AM , Rating: 2
Many hog and cattle farms are utilizing small biofuel plants to convert animal waste to methanol. They could use this as an efficient power plant and any waste heat could heat barns and/or water.

Run off solar?
By vailr on 2/22/2010 11:49:31 AM , Rating: 2
At one point in the interview, he mentions that his box device could also be engineered to run off of solar power. My guess would be: use daytime solar panel electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. At night, use the stored hydrogen + oxygen to fuel his box device. Hopefully a better solution than using lead-acid batteries for storing daytime solar power.

Bloom Boxy Snake Oil
By Liam B on 2/22/2010 12:25:08 PM , Rating: 2
Too little information to make valid judgement. Unimpressed by the bona fides of supporters. We've seen this happen before. As to the thermodynamic issue - what is impoertant is total thermal mass and radiant area.

Too slick
By Dorkyman on 2/22/2010 1:48:18 PM , Rating: 2
The guy demonstrating the box was slick.

Too slick.

All upside and no caveats.

I was waiting for him to mention that "cold fusion" was a factor.

And the lady from 60 Minutes obviously doesn't know how to change the oil in her car, let alone the economics of power generation. Typical fluff 60 Minutes segment. I wasted 10 minutes of my life watching it.

I think I see how this works
By wookie1 on 2/22/2010 2:24:09 PM , Rating: 2
You feed in a big bunch of red ink from your company (and all of us taxpayers that subsidize it), and that gets turned into black ink for his company and its shareholders. Brilliant!

It's been done already
By ssd2009 on 2/22/2010 9:13:34 PM , Rating: 2
Didn't GM announce some years ago tout gas powered boilers that produced electricity as a by product of heating silicon towers?

They were quoted as being a disruptive technology to the grid... never seen one. I'm not in the US so maybe they are common over there... better look...

Well I never... and as if by magic...British Gas announced
Fuel cell boiler could make homes into mini power stations,250000598,1000...

oh well

Latest Co-Gen Wonder
By VultureTX on 2/23/2010 10:04:16 AM , Rating: 2
Since many urban areas are having issues with electricity demand, I predict BLOOM boxes will be sold to all the local large corporation sites to provide on-site co-gen power for peak usage times. This allows business to avoid those surcharges that "green" cities like to throw at businesses for using power when their citizens need it for their ac/fridge/tv. Never-mind most cities gave those same corporations money/tax abatements to relocate there in order to hire those same citizens.

It might even be a product for rural farms and such that have NG/propane deleivery but have unreliable power grid access.

Their business plan
By madoka on 2/23/2010 3:55:39 PM , Rating: 2
1. Put disks and ink in a large black box
2. Heat to 1000 degrees
3. ????
4. Profit

...revolutionary? I'm not so sure
By yottabit on 2/26/2010 1:36:04 PM , Rating: 2
So it uses a hydrocarbon as fuel, puts off a ton of heat and releases CO2 to the atmosphere with efficiency of up to 65%?

Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't see how the benefits of this thing outweigh your typical combustion based generator. I'm pretty sure in large scale applications, efficiencies can approach that 65% number, for much less initial cost. And even if the efficiency is a little less, gas is pretty cheap. Of course this method seems to have an advantage in small scale applications (which seems to be the primary market).

The big question looming in my mind is the lifespan of this thing. Anytime I hear of some kind of fuel cell reaction I think of a catalyst being oxidized. If this thing only runs for 5 years at peak efficiency it will never repay itself and therefore be completely useless as a product.

By Just Me1234 on 3/2/2010 4:57:57 PM , Rating: 2
As I see it everyone's missing the point, so I'll spell it out, take ceramic disk, print coatings on each side, make ultra cheap fuel cell. The first ones are high because of developement costs, tooling costs, etc., but they will drop fast, as ceramics cost almost nothing to produce, and the "ink" can be applied with standard litho processes that are very very low cost. These are just the first, newer fuel cells with lower operating temps and even lower costs will come.

Now take these ultra cheap fuel cells, put hydrogin and oxigen into fuel cell, get cheap electrisity and no polution, put other hydrocarbons in, get cheap electrisity and some small amounts of polution, these printed fuel cells are the first of a new era.

Fuel cells will be part of the solution to a number of huge problems, problems such as polution, ripoff oil prices, etc. but with the right changes we will be able to move into a clean future with no loss of our standard of living, hell our standard of living will get even better, we will live longer with clean air, we will return to clean clear blue skys, ozone depletion will end saving thousands from skin cancer, our children will live longer lives and have fewer childhood diseases, our food will grow faster and be better as acid rain will be stoped, we will have more money as we will pay less for fuel/energy, and we can still have fast powerfull cars, all our gadgets, airconditioning in summer, heat in the winter, its the first time progress realy moves forward with out causing new problems.

You can now use solar, wind, wave, hydroelectric, etc. to generate hydrogen in these new cheap fuel cells, truck, pipe it, etc., just like we do with gas, oil, etc. now. So you create the power when ever in out of the way areas and at the times it can be best created, then use it to convert water into hydrogin, and then use the hydrogin to fuel when needed in our vehicals, buisnesses, and homes. These new types of cheap fuel cells, are part of a whole new revolution in energy creation and polution reduction.

So here's to a bright, clean future!

Size Matters
By sgtshultz on 2/22/2010 12:35:01 PM , Rating: 1
One block could power a car. Think about that..

buzz abounds
By ReutersGreenBusiness on 2/23/2010 6:40:56 PM , Rating: 1
I just wrote about this for
One more day 'til all will be revealed -- what do you think? Let us know, is the Bloom Box too good to be true?

By ReutersGreenBusiness on 2/23/2010 6:43:27 PM , Rating: 1
I just wrote about this for
What do you think? Is the Bloom Box too good to be true?

"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer

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