Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bloom Energy - the future personal/local power generation?

My son mentioned this to me yesterday and I found that there was no shortage of reports available.  However, when I checked their website (Bloom Energy), they merely had a non-informative inspirational video.  Today the site is well populated.

The tech start-up, lead by Dr. KR Sridhar, is developing efficient power generation systems based on work performed he did at the University of Arizona as part of the NASA Mars space program. Here's what they say about their Energy Server:

Built with our patented solid oxide fuel cell technology, Bloom's Energy Server™ is a new class of distributed power generator, producing clean, reliable, affordable electricity at the customer site.

Fuel cells are devices that convert fuel into electricity through a clean electro-chemical process rather than dirty combustion. They are like batteries except that they always run. Our particular type of fuel cell technology is different than legacy "hydrogen" fuel cells in four main ways:

1. Low cost materials – our cells use a common sand-like powder instead of precious metals like platinum or corrosive materials like acids.
2. High electrical efficiency – we can convert fuel into electricity at nearly twice the rate of some legacy technologies
3. Fuel flexibility – our systems are capable of using either renewable or fossil fuels
4. Reversible – our technology is capable of both energy generation and storage

Each Bloom Energy Server provides 100kW of power, enough to meet the baseload needs of 100 average homes or a small office building... day and night, in roughly the footprint of a standard parking space. For more power simply add more energy servers.

Their systems are not cheap but they already have some high profile corporate customers, including Google, Staples, Walmart, eBay, Cox, and FedEx. Whether Bloom Energy Servers will be installed at every house in America, I don't know.  It's clear their web site will only provide the good news and I have seen there is plenty of skeptical viewpoints.  It will be interesting to see how this product progresses.

More on the Next Big Future, National Geographic, and IEEE Spectrum.