Is Bloom Energy’s Fuel Cell Miracle For Real?

UPDATE 3: click here to read our thoughts on the hype – even if Bloom isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, they’ve set something good in motion

UPDATE 2: click here to read our breaking report from Wednesday’s standing room only press briefing on the Bloom Box

UPDATE: We’re still short on the real details (stay tuned till Wednesday to find those out), but scroll down to the bottom to watch the 60 minutes clip which gives a decent introduction. Leave a comment if there’s something specific you want asked.

The interwebs are aflutter with excitement over Bloom Energy’s top secret “Bloom Box” fuel cell system finally revealing itself. For those who haven’t already checked it out (the website is still just a marquee), the company boasts that their systems could literally replace the electricity grid with dispersed, clean, and easy to maintain fuel cell boxes running on a variety of fuels, water, and oxygen, with no combustion at all. Sound like hype? Their PR team has certainly been working in overdrive…

The scoop has been leaking for a day now on the CBS website, and on others including Fortune and GreenTechMedia. However, Sunday night will be your first chance to hear real details about the Bloom Box when 60 Minutes airs a segment that with either knock your socks off, raise a lot of eyebrows, or both.

Bloom has already listed almost two dozen large companies who have been stealth testers of the mysterious device including eBay, who claim to have already saved $100,000 and such perennial sustainability favorites as Google and WalMart.

Exactly how it works is among the surprises we’re supposed to get on Sunday. (edit – looks like we’re waiting till Wednesday) Hank Green suggests that the device could be installed in homes, generating both electricity and heat, which would result in big efficiency gains. Commenters on Reddit point out that the real savings may lie in avoiding transmission and maintenance costs with a machine that’s much simpler to handle than a full fledged power plant. Although the boxes cost a lot (up to $800K), the amount of power they allegedly put out more than makes up for it.

Why is this a big deal? How do they differ from existing fuel cell backup systems already in place? Has the internet been duped by one of the more successful publicity campaigns in recent memory? It’s all TBA in the next few days…

Check out 60 Minutes on Sunday night for the sneak preview, then leave your questions here. On Wednesday morning, 3p’s Jim Witkin will attend the official unveiling in San Jose along with General Colin Powell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, big shots from Kleiner Perkins and more. We’ll be able to ask some key questions and will publish the juicy details as soon as we’ve got ‘em.



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Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of TriplePundit.com

TriplePundit.com has since grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He was instrumental in the creation of TreeHugger.com, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years as well as an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.