AT&T Offers Big Commitment to Fuel Cell Player Bloom Energy
October 2, 2012 12:02 PM
comment(s) - last by
Telecom is purchasing 17 fuel cell systems for sites in Calif. and Conn., providing clean backup power
Solid oxide fuel cells
(SOFCs) are not anything particular new or Earth-shaking, nor are the materials involved. Thus when K. R. Sridhar -- a former Ph.D researcher for The
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
efforts -- launched a startup
claiming to have radically reinvented the SOFC
created the "server" of the backup energy world
, interest was piqued as to exactly what Bloom Energy was doing that was so innovative.
I. AT&T Deployment is Another Win for Young Bloom Energy
That interest will likely intensify as Bloom Energy continues to snag high-profile takers.
Mr. Sridhar's company this week announced its biggest client acquisition yet -- a 17-site, 17.1 MW (149M kWh/year) installation effort across client AT&T, Inc.'s (
) sites in California and Connecticut.
Eleven of the site installations (7.5 MW) date back to
a July 2011 contract
and were all in California. The new installation adds 9.6 MW of generating capacity and six new sites, including data centers.
The systems -- known as either "Bloom Boxes" or, more formally, Bloom Energy Servers take the client data systems "off the grid" to a certain degree, meaning they act as a backup power system. But unlike some other backup systems (e.g. batteries), they also act as 24-7 generation capacity, reducing grid load during normal operation as well.
The new Bloom Boxes will support AT&T data centers. [Image Source: AT&T]
Bloom Energy founder K. R. Sridhar comments, "AT&T continues to be on the forefront of energy management and understands the need to find innovative ways to power the next generation. The investment they are making now not only means they will have control on their own energy destiny, but will also help ensure a brighter and more energy rich future for all."
II. A Master of Marketing
Back to the master-of-marketing angle, for those wondering what is special about Bloom Energy's SOFCs the answer is still unclear.
The printed anode reportedly uses green nickel oxide ink, while the cathode uses black Lanthanum strontium manganite ink. Neither is an entirely new or different formation. The same applies to the electrolyte, which Bloom Energy filed patent applications [
] indicate is either scandia-stabilized zirconia (ScSZ), or yttria-stabilized zirconia (YSZ). Both electrolytes have been explored and thoroughly researched.
The available information suggests that there is nothing particularly revolutionary about the Bloom Energy SOFCs' chemical makeup, though Bloom Energy certainly may have tweaked its production process to yield better purity than past designs. The materials do, however, point to some issues looming for the company.
Bloom Energy may use traditional fuel cell chemistries, but it appears to have mastered production processes and marketing hype. [Image Source: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]
It is suspected that Bloom Energy leans heavily on ScSZ, given the electrolyte's better performance at lower temperatures (poor low-temperature performance is often viewed as a deal-breaker for YSZ designs). However, elemental scandia is scarce, costing between $1,400 and $2,000 per kilogram. Currently there's a 5,000 kg/year demand, but annual production can only support 2,000 kg -- the remaining amount (the majority of production, actually) comes from Soviet-era stockpiles that Russia holds.
Bloom Energy appears to be pulling a "bit of an Apple", so to speak, in that it's taken existing materials and using a polished marketing machine, production process, and brand image has sold customers on a product that was long dismissed. While concerns remain, Bloom Energy deserves some praise for reviving lagging interest in SOFCs, which in turn may generate the capital necessary to discover
novel formulations capable of reducing costs and dependency on rare mineral stockpiles.
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
10/3/2012 10:55:18 AM
Pretty much what I was wondering. I live in a 47 unit loft/condo building. The building itself uses quite a bit of electricity from common lighting, elevators, etc. Also, the building uses a common hot water heating system. So, I was wondering if one of the smaller commercial systems would be economical. Since I understand that waste heat is one of the byproducts this could be a really good fit for our building producing electricity and heat for water. Definitely not at $1M but if a smaller unit was available for $100k maybe. Although we just replaced our hot water system for a significant cost so maybe in 15 years they will have their small commercial unit available.
"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA
Curiosity Rover is First to Witness Martian Streambed
September 28, 2012, 12:43 PM
AT&T Partners with Bloom Energy for California Bloom Box Fuel Cell Installations
July 12, 2011, 3:20 PM
Bloom Energy Unveils Energy "Servers", Looks to Revolutionize Power Industry
February 24, 2010, 2:00 PM
Is the "Magic" Alternative Energy Bloom Box for Real?
February 22, 2010, 10:00 AM
Purdue Develops Alloy For Commercially Viable Hydrogen Production
February 21, 2008, 1:43 PM
Creationists are Mad About Google Doodle Depicting Evolution
November 24, 2015, 8:48 PM
DHS and TSA: Whoops, We Missed That 73 Airport Employees May be Terrorists
November 19, 2015, 2:16 PM
Star Wars Spinoff Film "Rogue One", Theme Park Attractions Announced
August 17, 2015, 12:20 PM
SpaceX Falcon 9's Seventh Supply Mission to ISS Ends w/ Fiery Stage 1 Explosion
June 28, 2015, 1:10 PM
Cool Science Video: Glowing Millipede Prowls the Nevada Desert
May 18, 2015, 12:00 PM
Newly Discovered Costa Rican Glass Frog is Kermit's Doppelgänger
April 22, 2015, 11:26 AM
Latest Blog Posts
Sceptre Airs 27", 120 Hz. 1080p Monitor/HDTV w/ 5 ms Response Time for $220
Dec 3, 2014, 10:32 PM
Costco Gives Employees Thanksgiving Off; Wal-Mart Leads "Black Thursday" Charge
Oct 29, 2014, 9:57 PM
"Bear Selfies" Fad Could Turn Deadly, Warn Nevada Wildlife Officials
Oct 28, 2014, 12:00 PM
The Surface Mini That Was Never Released Gets "Hands On" Treatment
Sep 26, 2014, 8:22 AM
ISIS Imposes Ban on Teaching Evolution in Iraq
Sep 17, 2014, 5:22 PM
More Blog Posts
Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. -
Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information