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Bloom Energy’s Bloom Box Public Relations Coup d’Etat

| Sunday February 28th, 2010 | 47 Comments

Bloom Energy’s remarkable fuel cell energy server, the so called “Bloom Box“, has garnered more interest than almost anything else we’ve written about in months. By the sheer volume of traffic to this site you’d think the holy grail itself had been found. The bloom box does seem to hold a legitimate promise to improve the efficiency and ease of electricity generation and just might be a little bit greener. It still produces emissions, though very few people are talking about that. It seems, as we suggested last week, that the biggest efficiencies the bloom box provides will come from the elimination of transmission costs – bringing more electricity to the end user without losing it along the powerlines and other bottlenecks that usually get in the way.

There are dozens of other companies, however, who are working on similar fuel cell technologies. Some critics even pointed out that even Bloom’s proprietary technology is hardly unique. Sam Jaffe points out four more potential pitfalls with the product: That it may in fact be less efficient, more expensive, and even dirtier than competing forms of electricity generation – all while missing some of the technology’s biggest advantages (generating heat,and energy storage).

But that hasn’t dampened what has to the biggest cleantech PR coup of the year so far. Kudos go out to Outcast Communications who orchestrated Bloom’s public relations explosion of the past week – a perfect storm of mystery, hype, and not too shabby follow through by all involved. Despite the legitimate questions above, the cleantech world and the public at large remain captivated by the gee-whiz possibilities of fuel cells and the Jetson’s-like fantasy of limitless, magical power.

Indeed, by giving a company or a home complete control of their electricity generation, in a relatively green way (after all, end users could still supplement the bloom box with wind or solar), there’s a secondary appeal that emerges beyond price – independence. In terms of the general public, I think it’s this “off the grid” mentality that’s really driving enthusiasm, and which played so perfectly into the product’s launch hype. Generating electricity off the grid may ultimately be more efficient, but it’s also potentially safer – think about the east coast black-out a few years back. Especially in the United States, the quest for independence (whether fantasy or real) remains a bigger psychological driver than limiting one’s carbon footprint.

Whether or not Bloom can live up to the hype that’s been built remains to be seen, but even if they don’t, the excitement that’s been generated around fuel cells and even the criticism that’s been levied are proof of the public’s thirst for something new. People are very much ready for new energy technology, for greater efficiency, and for a greater feeling of independence – whether they’re particularly ‘green minded’ or not.

The ball is now in Bloom’s court, but many other entrepreneurs and individuals will be riding the wave of interest that’s been set in motion by their launch. Some may fail, some may find things even Bloom hadn’t considered. There might be a lot of hype right now, but even hype can produce action, investment, and hope for change. Personally, I’m excited to see Bloom keep growing, to keep hearing tales from Google, eBay and others who’ve tried out their technology, and to keep covering other companies who’ll be jumping in to fill the gaps.

This is going to be a fun ride…


▼▼▼      47 Comments     ▼▼▼

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  • Alex Stevens

    For those w/o $700,000-800,000 to spend for a 100kw power source using natural gas as a fuel, check out the 100kw commercial generators readliy available for $24,000 that use natural gas. Simply Google “price of 100kw natural gas generators”. To run off grid, your local propane guy will simply change the fittings (assuming someone off grid is also likely to not have a natural gas conection handy).
    What a bunch of hype! What a waste of taxpayers money!
    Alex Stevens

    • Bob E-Q

      Ok, first, the generator you speak of requires a lot of maintenance. The Bloom box is solid state i,e, no moving parts so there will be little to no maintenance required. Second, the devices that Google and other companies are using are PROTOTYPES! Prototypes tend to be pretty expensive. ( I would wager the Chevy Volt prototypes are a tad more expensive than the one I will eventually be able to by at the local dealership. The Bloom box is also reversible (solid oxide reversible fuel cell) which means you could hook it up to some solar cells to make fuel. (i.e. hydrogen) This thing has a lot of potential.

      • BlogReader

        The Bloom box is solid state i,e, no moving parts so there will be little to no maintenance required.

        The unit will still have to be cleaned to take care of the sulfur buildup which is a problem for natural gas. I didn't see that mentioned at all.

        • Bob E-Q

          Read it a again. Remember, “there will be little to no maintenance required”. I believe cleaning up the sulfur build up would qualify as “a little maintenance”. Wouldn't you?

        • Bob E-Q

          After a little further research, I believe Bloom Energy may have overcame this issue like others have. Google :Material to Chill “Dirty” Fuel Cells

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Santas-Klause/100000611444855 Santas Klause

        For us to really solve our earth problems with hydrogen (with or without fuel cells) we need to stop using fossil fuels all together. LPG is only available in limited amount for x years. Biofuels are still not reasonable enough until 4th generation biofuels proves to work.

        Unless there is a real sustainable and renewable way to power those fuel cells I don't see the point using them, No matter how efficient they are compared to utility-generated-electricity from the same LPG source.

        Is this the future? http://bit.ly/bloom-energy-will-change-the-world

    • billnolte

      Gee Alex,
      You should pay attention. The Bloom Box claims NO EMISSIONS where did you find a generator that will create no emissions???? It also uses substantially less fuel to create the electricity than a generator. This is not magic, it already works, now they just need to get it to market at a reasonable price. Fuel cells have been around for a long time they were just cost prohibitive, maybe not anymore!!! The unit sized for a U.S. home is planned to be in the $3000.00 neighborhood. Sounds reasonable to me! I firmly believe in and back American ingenuity!

      • salubrius

        The reason for the low emissions or no emissions is that the conversion of the chemical energy to electrical energy is carried out electrochemically rather than by combustion and at a much lower temperature than the temperature of combustion. FCE's claims a 99% reduction bases on tests it has conducted. The California Pollution Control authorities have certified FCE's units can be installed without any need for a separate hearing.

        • billnolte

          Perhaps you didn't fully read or understand my comment. The fuel cell (although it produces electricity) is not a generator. This was a response to the comment by Alex Stevens. I am as most folks are that a fuel cell is not a generator it is a passive device and creates little to no emissions. The generator that Alex Stevens was talking about is a motor generator, an internal combustion engine and it does create emissions.

    • hi3girls

      Ah, but no taxpayer money has been invested yet. Also, not zero emissions, just more efficient so less pollution per unit energy. A big part of the upside is the distributed nature, thereby saving transmission losses. And yes, the appropriately sized/priced residential unit would likely pay for itself within a few years…until the skeptics get on board and drive up the price of gas ;-) Sign me up!

    • Partha

      Where does the tax payer's money spent here to draw such caustic remarks? Venture capitol money is not tax payer's money.

      Any research is expensive – the pay back comes when you go for mass production.

      This technology is going to rewrite the future of the world,which is threatened by increasing cost of oil- This technology is going to make the living less expensive, less polluted and it is going to increase the world to survive longer. The world is not going to end due to fuel shortage- the existing fuel stock will be used more meaningfully and energy will be generated from more unconventuional fuels- like Gas from cow dung and even human waste. THIS TECHNOLOGY IS GOING TO CHANGE THE WORLD – TO BE A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE.

      • AlexStevens

        30% Federal tax credit?
        $2,500 per kw California rebate (100 x $2,500 = $250,000 per 100kw Bloom Box)?
        On the planet I live that's taxpayer's money.

        • Bill Nolte

          Alex,
          A tax credit IS NOT other TAXPAYER's MONEY!! A tax credit simply means that you get to keep more of the money you earn not that you are taking money someone else has earned! Same applies to the California rebate if you didn't pay it in you can not get a rebate, that defies the definition of rebate.

    • salubrius

      The $700,000 – $800,000 cost is the cost of a prototype. Each time you double production, the cost is reduced by 10% to 30%. Otherwise you would be paying $1,000,000 or more for a new car.
      More than half of all kWh are generated with coal at an average efficiency of 34% at the generator and likely 28% at your meter. Fuel is the highest cost. But a fuel cell will give you 50% efficiency (cutting your gas bill almost in half) and cuts out the cost of I square losses and the cost of operating and maintenance of the transmission and distribution and also expose you to a lot of outages from lightning, cars hitting poles, etc.

      The commercial generator running on propane and natural gas will be noisy, a fire hazard, and expensive because its fuel efficiency will be at best 28%. That means your fuel cost will be twice as much and fuel is the most expensive component of the kilowatt hour except maybe for nuclear power..

  • salubrius

    Bloom is way ahead on the use of PR, but on technology, The Fuel Cell Energy of Danbury, CT Molten Carbonate fuel cell and Versa Power Systems of Littleton, CO Solid Oxide fuel cell appear to be far ahead of Bloom. Bloom's fuel cell is also a Solid Oxide fuel cell.

    FCE targets loads from 300 kW to 3,000 kW such as supermarkets, colleges, hotels, hospitals. FCE has already cut its costs so that its largest model can now be manufactured to sell with a positive margin. The production cost of these fuel cells declines sharply with volume production. FCE currently has 60 installations around the world. FCE owns 42% of Versa Power Systems. Versa Power does not yet market a commercial product but has already gotten the cost of its smaller fuel cell down to an estimated cost of $700 per kW (when manufactured in high volume) through its participation in the billion dollar US DOE SECA program. According to DOE's NETL (National Electric Technology Lab) the cost estimates have been certified by the US Office of Management and Budget. By continuing to participate in that cost reduction program it expects its fuel cells to cost only $400 per kW by 2012, a competitive cost. Bloom's cost estimates seem to be predicted on estimates that its fuel cells will be reduced to about $300 per kW in about 10 years when manufactured in volume and will then be commercial.

    Neither FCE nor Versa use platinum catalysts and neither need to be fueled with hydrogen. These are advantages that Bloom has implied are exclusive to its product. In fact the FCE fuel cell reforms more hydrogen from natural gas than it needs to generate electricity — the surplus could be used to fuel cars with PEM fuel cells that require hydrogen for fuel. The FCE fuel cell, in addition to using natural gas as a fuel, can also use coal gas (“syn gas”), propane, mine mouth methane, bio-gas and byproduct gases from industrial processes such as methane from beer brewing and bread baking, and even paint fumes from the painting facility of an auto manufacturer and sewage effluent from an anaerobic digester.

    Most American single family houses have a 100 amp connection with the grid, a service drop that will accommodate a peak load of 10 kW at 110 volts or up to 20 kW if loads are served at 220 V. The Versa Power Solid Oxide fuel cell is suitable for that use to satisfy the electrical and/or heating and air conditioning needs of a single family residence but can also be scaled up to 100,000 kW plants using syn gas with an efficiency of 50%. FCE and Versa Power are currently developing such a large plant for DOE.

    Bloom's 100 kW fuel cell weighs 100 tons or 200,000 lbs according to its spec sheet. That is one ton or 2,000 lbs per kW. But the Versa Power fuel cell weighs only 200 lbs per kW, an order of magnitude lower. Versa Power has been cooperating with the US Airforce on developing power supply for military drones and with the US Navy on developing power supply for mobile underwater platforms. At 2,000 lbs per kW, Bloom fuel cells are likely far too heavy for this purpose. They are more than 6 times as heavy, per kW as the FCE fuel cells.

    FCE's stationary fuel cell has an efficiency of 47% after its DC output (efficiency, 54%) undergoes losses due to its inversion to AC so as to be compatible with the grid. It could be used as DC if operated in isolation. Its efficiency in relatively small sizes permits it to be located near its loads so it does not have to provide for losses over transmission and distribution lines. Conventional coal fired steam turbine generation must get up to sizes of some 500,000 to 600,000 kW to reach an optimal efficiency of 38% (or 43% for rare supercritical units). Per kW hardware costs are also lower also in these larger units. Power from these giant units when adjusted for transmission line and distribution line losses to the customer's meter, may only have a fuel efficiency of 29%. The invention of the aeroderivative internal combustion gas turbine-generator in the early 70s permitted gas to be used as a base load fuel when it was somewhat higher in cost than coal per mmbtu but not a multiple of that cost. That was because of its greater efficiency and lower capacity cost as no expensive boiler was required. The increase in gas cost to multiples of coal cost after the year 2000, greatly reduced their desirability. These gas turbines can be used as the front end of a combined cycle unit. When fully loaded and at optimal temperature and pressure combined cycles can reach a 50% efficiency at sizes of 50,000 kW, and at a size of 400,000 kW, reach an efficiency of 60%.

    FCE can also be used as a combined cycle or hybrid “FC/GT”. When its exhaust is fed into a turbine-generator its electrical fuel efficiency increases to 56%. It can be used with backpressure turbines at high pressure gas transmission line pressure step down stations where it can develop a fuel efficiency of 60% (its model DFC-ERG). It claims that with much larger units of 40,000 kW it can achieve an electrical fuel efficiency of 78%

    It can also cogenerate because the units is on site, the heat will only have to travel a few yards. Heat energy can't travel for long distances. When there is a need for domestic hot water, process steam, space heating or air conditioning at the site of the electrical load, its combined heat and power (CHP) fuel efficiencly can grow as high as 90%+ as it has at one hospital installation in Germany.

    FCE has partnered with POSCO Steel Co. of South Korea. It is one of its best customers. POSCO has built a factory to manufacture the mechanical and electrical portions of FCE's fuel cell leaving the stack elements almost entirely to FCE. FCE is currently manufacturing at a rate of 30,000 kW per year and will be raising its capacity to 50,000 kW per year.

    The FCE and Versa Fuel Cells can eliminate transmission and distribution lines and also 99% of the toxic pollution emitted by coal generation that provides for more than half of all kilowatt hours generated in the US. Elimination of the transmission and distribution line losses and construction and operation and maintenance costs, can eliminate 5¢ per kilowatt hour of cost of electricity at the customer's meter.

    Bloom appears to have been comparing his fuel cell with the Plugpower fuel cell early on sponsored by GE, that was also targeted at single family residences of about 10 kW. It uses a PEM fuel cell. It is a low temperature fuel cell with a plastic electrolite that would melt at high temperatures. Only low temperature fuel cells require platinum or noble metal catalysts. As these are expensive and also easily poisoned by carbon monoxide in the hydrocarbon reformate, high temperature fuel cells such as those made by FCE, Versa, and Bloom are more desirable. The high temperature fuel cells are also more efficient than the low temperature ones because they do not require a separate reformer — the hydrocarbon is reformed in the stack. The Plugpower complete units, initially sponsored by GE, have never become commercial, likely because of catalyst poisoning problems — i.e. poisoning by small amounts of carbon monoxide in the gas reformate.. But its stack is being used with bottled hydrogen to provide backup power supply at telephone central stations and at some electrical substations for backup to operate relays and circuit breakers. High temperature fuel cells, not requiring platinum or noble metals as a catalyst, are not poisoned by carbon monoxide — they consume it and generate additional electricity from it.

    SYSTEM ISSUES

    The initial need for transmission and distribution lines is that generators are much larger than the individual loads they serve. The reason they are larger is that there are great economies of scale in generation. From the small Pearl Street Station in 1882 that had a fuel efficiency estimated at 8%, with Nikola Tesla's invention of polyphase alternating current, generators grew to serve entire municipalities. With direct current systems they could only serve in an area of about one mile, a half mile radius from a central generating station.

    This changed with the advent of single phase and then polyphase alternating current technology. Larger generators could serve entire communities and then entire regions — even an entire state. Investors bought up electric power utilities and merged them to take advantage of economies of scale that were so great they more than offset the additional costs of transmission and distribution — just to take advantage of the better fuel efficiency and lower hardware cost per kw. From 1882 to 1970 generator scale of coal fired boilers supplying steam turbines increased to optimal sizes of 500,000 kW or 600,000 kW and to even large sizes that proved sub optimal. And with the increases in scale, their fuel efficiency increased to about 38% and if one were to accept the risks of operating supercritical generating units with extremely high temperatures and pressures, to as much as 43%.

    The integration of loads in an area with transmission and distribution also led to additional economies from load diversity and generator forced outage diversity. For loads that had a low load factor — where most generation was needed just a few hours of the day, the larger the area served, the greater the probability that everyone's peak usage would not occur at the same time. So for example, with single family residences that use at most 10 kW, but on average only 1 to 1.5 kW, on average these could be served with only 2 kW of generation per customer, saving 80% of generation capacity costs.

    Also, for firm power, the systems needed generator reserves. The reserves for forced outage might be needed only a few hours per year. With integration, because of forced outage diversities, one generator could meet the reserve power needs of several electric utility systems.

    However transmission and distribution is rapidly increasing in cost. As of 2000, the average cost per kW of transmission and distribution (T&D), including substations, was $500 per kW, but the average cost of recently installed T&D was almost $1,500 per kW. When the cost of fuel cell generating capacity falls below the cost of integrating transmission and distribution, it may no longer be economical to use them. The most stationary power supply may then change from integrated systems to distributed fuel cell generation. Prior to that time, owners of fuel cells may integrate them into “micro-grids” by distribution or sub-transmission (low voltage transmission) to obtain load and generation outage diversities. Micro-grids are being explored even now in Connecticut.

    Because of its greater efficiency, the fuel cell will reduce so called greenhouse gases significantly, but greenhouse gases are undesirable only if you believe in global warming; many are commencing to believe that is just a scam. However the fuel cell will almost completely eliminate the really dangerous emissions of toxic pollution such as NOX, SO2 and particulate matter (99% of those emissions as compared with coal generation) because it generates electrochemically rather than by combustion at much lower temperatures than the temperature of combustion.

    Over the last 150 years there have been but four inventions that have made a great impact in the electric energy supply market. These are 1. the change from small on-site generators to central stations to obtain electric power service without the need to operate an maintain a generator, 2. the change to polyphase alternating current with its invention by Nikola Tesla and its ability to integrate loads and generation to secure fuel efficiency, lower hardware costs per kW, and optimal use of generating capacity, 3. the invention of the aeroderivative internal combustion gas turbine that increased the efficiency of gas turbines from 28% to 43% and permitted combined cycle operation at efficiencies up to 60%, and 4. the development of the fuel cell that is efficient at small sizes, can eliminate transmission and distribution lines, and can almost eliminate toxic pollution.

    The last development has one further important effect, its effect on competition.
    To install a conventional optimal coal fired steam turbine, one has to raise a half billion dollars. Even at $3,000 per kW, a 300 kW generating unit can be installed for a million dollars. With the costs of base load generators so reduced, one would expect to see a lot more competition in the electric power supply market.

    Great increases in volume and the learning curve could continue to drive cost down even below $400 per kW. If cost can be driven down as low as $50 per kW the Solid Oxide fuel cell can be competitive against the internal combustion engine in the automobile market.

    • tomwise

      That's what I was going to say.

      • salubrius

        I got my data from a spec sheet published earlier. I looked at their current website and note it says ten tons. The 100 tons had sounded excessive to me. I am glad to see the corrected data. This will permit Bloom to compete for the US Air Force Vulture II development.

      • salubrius

        Thanks. I am glad to see they corrected their earlier spec sheet. The weight sounded excessive to me.

    • Manoj

      100 KW Bloom system weighs 10 tons as per their website; NOT 100 tons.

      • salubrius

        Thanks for you reply and the source of your data. It appears they have corrected their earlier spec sheet. At 200 lbs per kW they can compete for the US Air Force Vulture II.

  • thomas adair

    How about a business(Athena Procurement Solutions), that will make all the payment for those who buy the Bloom Box? That means you finance the equipment and Athena will make the monthly payments till the system is paid in full.

    Athenapro.com is the website still in development, but take a look and feel free to get the people, that work for Bloom Energy to call Athena.

    I can be reached at my personal email, thomasadair@live.com

    Thomas Adair
    Owner/Developer

  • bab

    come on haters.. jealous..jealous.. get off your ass and invent somthing.. stop crying..baab

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  • Harikumar

    How did eBay make a profit of $.100,000 so quickly. If what they say is true, and there is no reason to be live otherwise, then it is the holy grail. Like the cellular phone will it change the entire world? Let us wait and watch.

  • Alex Stevens

    The Bloom Box uses MM.661btu of natural gas to produce 100kw hours of electricity. A 100kw natural gas generator (Generac) needs MM1.376btu (or 1339 cubic feet) to produce the same 100kw hours of electricity. So Bloom’s twice as effecient!
    Bloom Box cost $800,000 vs $24,000 for the generator (a proven technology).
    With natural gas @ $7 per 1000 cubic feet, anyone who paid attention to their elementry school arithmatic teacher can see this is a bunch of hype.
    Unfortunately, they are going to cause serious damage to the genuine efforts of scientists worldwide who are working to advance fuel cell technology.

    • Good Grief!

      Mr Stevens, didn't you get the memo?

      The first Bloom Boxes are highly specialized pieces of equipment, i.e. PROTOTYPES! The price will come down considerably when they get the manufacturing process in full swing.

      BTW: What exactly do you have against this company? I detect the distinct tone of malice in your comments.

  • salubrius

    Thanks for your corrections. I got my data from a spec sheet they published earlier. I thought it sounded excessive. Ten tons or 200 lbs per kW will let them compete for Vulture II.

  • Paige

    While the Bloom Box does leave some unanswered questions, I think it is a small step in the right direction. It will be interesting to see how this breakthrough fits into our lives on a daily basis. http://bit.ly/c5VMdf

  • http://www.thepumablog.com Steve Puma

    I, for one, welcome our new over-hyped-Kleiner-funded-natural-gas-hydrogen-and-biofuel-powered overlords.

    :-)

  • caseyverdant

    Bloom Energy is poised to change the clean power market! With proven results at FedEx, Google, BoA, and eBay, Bloom has shown how they can reduce energy costs and carbon footprints. Let’s hope the price drops from $700K to the target of $3K fast enough to move from commercial to residential buyers.

    Researching how to make your company, product, or next project more Green? Go to http://www.greencollareconomy.com for sustainability white papers and the largest b2b green directory on the web.

  • kenjackson5

    It is claimed that the local generation of electricity is less expensive because of the cost of electrical power distribution.
    These units burn natural gas.
    The distribution costs for natural gas are being ignored.

    • billnolte

      Actually there is no loss of energy in the distribution of natural gas. The gas that the end user gets has the same BTUs as the gas put into the distribution system, unlike electricity that has line loss due to the resistance of the wire conducting the electricity from distribution to end user as well as the heat loss in each of the multiple transformers to reduce the voltage from 100,000 volts at the generating facility to the 277/480 or 120/208 – 120/240 volts the end user utilizes.
      You overlooked that these are multifuel units. They can run on many types of fuel including methane produced by rotting garbage at the local town dump, propane etc.

  • kenjackson5

    The cost of the power lines is added into the distribution cost for electrical energy.
    The corresponding cost of the pipelines for natural gas is not included in the cost analysis.
    If there is widespread use of natural gas for local electricity generation, we will need more pipelines.
    SOFCs will indeed run on many types of fuel.
    But we do not have a ready source of such fuels, nor a distribution system for them.

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  • connecticutenergy

    nice read thanks,

    I use Connecticut Energy http://www.ConnecticutsEnergy.com

  • connecticutenergy

    nice read thanks,

    I use Connecticut Energy http://www.ConnecticutsEnergy.com

  • Falstaff

    From the article:
    “””
    that the biggest efficiencies the bloom box provides will come from the elimination of transmission costs – bringing more electricity to the end user without losing it along the powerlines and other bottlenecks that usually get in the way.
    “””
    Ridiculous. Fuel cells still require _energy_ transmission still in the form of pumping or trucking around chemical fuels such as natural gas, and moving electrons is far more energy efficient than moving molecules. Good grief, is it possible in one of these commentary forums to put up an article that simply says “we don't know, we're not engineers” instead of this worse than UFO abduction hand waiving nonsense?

    • Bill Nolte

      It appears that you tend to blow misstatements out of proportion. As previously stated there is not loss of BTUs in the distribution of natural gas. The gas put in has the same BTU rating when it comes out unlike electricity that is consumed in resistance loss in both conductors and transformers. If the fuel cell is located at the source of the fuel what loss is there? No trucks are involved, only pipe and a collection system to deliver to the fuel cell.
      Your statements “as fact” are incorrect in some situations but not all. No one said this was a perfect system but perhaps a better system when applied correctly! I disagree with your statement that “moving electrons is far more energy efficient than moving molecules” as this may not always be true!

      • Falstaff

        Nolte – If you like the pretty colors on Bloom's website or the music they play at their demonstrations, that's fine, but restrict your comments to such because with regards to energy you, like the article author don't understand what you are talking about. Energy is spent in moving natural gas – pumps, compressors, etc, in fact energy is spent in taking in mass from rest and moving it against friction to some other location – always, no exceptions. And yes, moving electrons is ALWAYS more energy efficient than moving the same number molecules the _same distance_. None of these Bloom Energy cells, at least the ones well publicised – Ebay, Cypress, etc – share location with the source of the gas. Nor is practical to place a natural gas well at one of these places of business.

        I see above you also claimed Bloom Energy claims their fuel cells produce no emissions. That's also incorrect:
        http://www.bloomenergy.com/products/data-sheet/
        Fuel cells may produce little (but not none) in the way of the combustion by-products seen from traditional Rankine or Brayton cycle engines, but they produce as much or more CO2 per kWh produced, in fact inevitably more CO2 because they are less efficient than the large utility gas turbine generators (so far at least).

  • Ewr6756

    Regarding transmision cost, what are they for natural gas on average per KW? Having worked offshore Louisiana, some of the well head pressures were over 10k psi and the gas was dumped directly into the high pressure gas pipeline network. Other well head pressures were only a few hundred psi which required multistage natural gas compressors to elevate the gas pressure… All power plants have associated source energy production and distribution losses, as well as electrical distribution losses. The whole energy picture would/should be include these calculations. For example, the energy cost of drilling a natural gas well, the energy cost of building and maintaining a natural gas distribution network, the energy cost of distributing the gas, the energy cost of the conversion from chemical to electrical energy, the energy cost of building and maintaining the power distribution network, the energy cost of the distribution, and finally the energy costs of its use. Your quite right, without looking at the whole picture, it is impossible to understand the utility and appropriate application of new and competeting technologies… But, the fuel cell advocates claim that they can acheive efficiencies equal to or greater than large power plants on a much smaller scale which makes them suitable for institution which can also utilize waste heat rather than just dumping the heat into the atmosphere. I believe they'd have a sizeable market if they could bring there cost inline with competitive products.

    • Falstaff

      “”” […] But, the fuel cell advocates claim that they can acheive efficiencies equal to or greater than large power plants on a much smaller scale which makes them suitable for institution which can also utilize waste heat rather than just dumping the heat into the atmosphere. I believe they'd have a sizeable market if they could bring there cost inline with competitive products.”””
      I agree for a theoretical fuel cell, but Bloom's systems do not make waste heat available for other purposes.

  • Hollingst

    There are two major issues here that I do not see addressed.

    1- low maintenance cost on a unit with a lifespan of 10 yrs??? How so when the savings vs cost does not even cover the initial investment in that time span which is for all intense and purposes the lifespan of the unit.

    2- load control? these units are designed to run steady state with no variation in loading. How much more will it cost to incorporate that controlling equipment?

    Unless I have misread something somewhere this is an interesting yet immature and expensive toy.

    • Falstaff

      The typical users profiled so far (e.g. Ebay) have large electrical loads, so that at even minimum load they'd want their Bloom Box(s) running 100%, since 1) the Bloom produced electricity from CNG is cheaper than grid power and 2) the Bloom box is indeed expensive so they'll want to keep the ROI high by running 100% all the time.

      • Hollingst

        The ROI would be a variable of the price of CNG in this case which varies by location quite a bit and therefore the comparison to “grid” power would vary dependent upon the fuel source as well as its competitive pricing. Costs for this are very favorable in locations like California however move it somewhere coal is cheap and grid price is closer to 6-8 cents a kWh and you lose this ROI leverage quickly. Also how much does it cost to “refuel” after ten yrs? I suspect that it will not be cheap…

        My other point was this has been used on large non variable electrical loading and if you wanted to implement these say in a residential atmosphere that would have to be accounted for and thus would add components and cost…

        • Falstaff

          Agreed on both points. For the moment, Bloom's market would be restricted to those areas where electricity is either expensive or unavailable compared to CNG (i.e California), and also restricted to industrial users. But then that's a fairly large market, plenty to allow them to scale up.

  • Azgasso

    THE BOTTOM LINE???????????????? When are these MFs going to be available to me “The Residential User”?????????????? Does anyone happen to know ???? Because I want one now!!!!!!!! I would like to buy it today. I have 500 acres off grid in AZ and this would answer my utility needs. I would much rather buy one of these then pipe in utility lines and all the BS.

    By the way all your comments are very interesting…Salubrius Give us the bottom line!!!

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  • katgod

    Finally, Steve Puma and some of the last comments seem to get grounded in reality. Hopefully some of the earlier people commenting understand what is being said and that Bloom has a long way to go before we have a home unit if ever from Bloom. Where is my flying car, I thought I was suppose to be flying it around by now.

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    Bloom Energy’s Bloom Box Public Relations Coup d’Etat

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