Silicone Valley start up, Bloom Energy, endeavors to make personal power plant boxes available for every household.
Founder and CEO of Bloom Energy, inventor and NASA rocket scientist, K. R. Sridhar, invented a new fuel cell that pumps oxygen into the Bloom Box along with fuel (oil, natural gas, biofuel, solar, carbon-neutral landfill fuel, etc.) that combine to produce electricity.
With current high costs of over $700,000 few individuals can afford a Bloom Box now. However, 20 large corporations such as Google, eBay, FedEx, WalMart and Staples have bought Bloom Boxes fueled by government subsidies are are currently testing the efficiency and reliability.
The large Bloom Box- which will eventually shrink in both size and cost, and could generate enough clean, green energy to power a house and keep it completely off the grid (an impressive and necessary feat considering over half of the energy used or lost takes place when energy is transported through the power grid and to homes and buildings). K.R. believes that he can get the price down to a relatively- inexpensive price tag on $3000 making it more reasonable for a family’s investment.
With a combination of both enthusiasm and skepticism, green technology expert Hank Green of EcoGeek.org, says “But I put “clean” in quotation marks because, despite the fact that the words “carbon dioxide” are never mentioned, Bloom Boxes still pump CO2 into the atmosphere, albeit far less than a traditional grid-scale natural gas plant would.”
Green also made a few comments about Bloom Energy’s 60 Minutes appearance saying that while much of Bloom Energy initiatives are revolutionary and pose great possibilities for leaps in green energy progress, there were some unnecessary adulteration of facts. He writes:
Annoying press point #1: The Bloom Box “energy server” works with “nearly any fuel source.” To me, “nearly any fuel source” means anything containing carbon/hydrogen compounds, ranging from gasoline to wood. The Bloom Box doesn’t run on “nearly any fuel source” it runs on methane or methane or methane. That methane can be pumped out of the ground or captured from landfills, but it’s still methane, and as I count it, that’s one fuel source.
Annoying press point #2: Companies using the Bloom Box can “expect a three to five year payback on their capital investment.” This is insane. The average cost per kW/h in California is 14 cents and Bloom promises a cost of roughly 9 cents. 100 kW multiplied by 8760 hours in a year times $0.05 per kW means 100 kW of continual electricity consumption over the course of the year will save a company a maximum of $45,000 per year. Call me crazy, but I don’t see how they’re going to pay for a $700,000 piece of equipment (even with a 50% government subsidy that won’t last forever) over the course of three or five years by saving $45k per year.
Annoying press point #3: Probably what annoys me most about Bloom’s press release is that they claim the box “provides a cleaner, more reliable, and more affordable alternative to both today’s electric grid as well as traditional renewable energy sources.” Again, if it’s not an outright lie, it’s at least very misleading. The Bloom Box might be more reliable than both, but it isn’t cheaper than the grid and it isn’t cleaner than solar or wind. Marketing double-speak isn’t good for anyone. If you take that sentence at face value, then you might as well cease all development of solar and wind and put 100% of the country’s resources into Bloom Boxes.
But the possibilities are inspiring. Our energy grid could be revolutionized, third world countries could easily and cheaply have abundant and reliable energy and we could further shift into the green technology paradigm.