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Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 5,389
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sparky Offline OP
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Well here's something that might make dinosaurs outta all of us here, i've never heard of anything quite like this (note to mods> or even know where to appropriately post it)


A New Way to Power the Planet?

In February 2010 Silicon Valley start-up Bloom Energy debuted what it believed was a true revolution in the electricity industry. Its creators heralded the small, elegant energy “server” as a modern marvel the likes of which had never been seen before. The device is made of cheap materials, can both store and generate energy, and is allegedly more efficient and flexible than other output technologies.

The Bloom Energy Server, often called the “Bloom Box,” currently generates electricity from a natural gas source. The methane goes in, goes through a series of catalyzed chemical reactions, and electricity comes out. Because of its usage of natural gas, the energy server is not a stand-alone solution to human-induced climate change or pollution.

However, the portability of the energy source itself does increase efficiencies. Instead of producing gigawatts of power at a central location and transmitting that energy across a vast power grid, individual consumers could purchase a “bloom box” and make energy at home. Natural gas burns much cleaner than coal, it is also easier to extract, and it is less hazardous to employee safety. More importantly, the U.S. has vast domestic supplies of natural gas that could be tapped to feed any Bloom-induced spike in demand.

The fuel cell is not perfect, and like all hyped technologies it will likely not live up to all its advanced billing. Nevertheless, the innovation and entrepreneurial vision of Bloom Energy is something that the American economy desperately needs. This country cannot become a 21st century leader if it is still suckling from the teat of fossil fuels. For the time being the energy server is just another fossil fuel guzzler.

However, the Bloom box also carries with it the possibility to be a viable resource for alternative energy storage and generation. According to Bloom Energy CEO K.R. Sridhar, the server can run on biogas products and organic molecules derived from tomorrow’s clean energy technologies.

Moreover the success and positive reception of Bloom Energy may create a brand new start-up field in the U.S. According to earth2tech.com, California has already approved the experimental installation of fuel cells from Bloom Energy and FuelCell Energy on campuses around the state. If the fuel cell projects are deemed a success they could be expanded to other public buildings and potentially adopted by Southern California Edison and other major utility conglomerates.

Having adequate and state-of-the-art energy production capacity is not a cure all for the economy’s woes, but it is a start. If the momentum and buzz created by Bloom can be harnessed into a new technological and industrial initiative it may provide the shot in the arm that California needs.

This in turn could ripple through the rest of the United States. If anything, it at the very least gives the engineers and designers of tomorrow a goal to strive for
.

Meet the Bloom box (images)
http://news.cnet.com/2300-11386_3-10002583.html?tag=mncol;txt

[Linked Image from i.i.com.com]

Sridhar says you take a stack of these and you can power anything. (The one in his hand, for example, can power a house, he says.)


[Linked Image from i.i.com.com]

http://www.bloomenergy.com/


~S~

Joined: Mar 2007
Posts: 404
Member
There was a segment on 60 minutes a while back about this; apparently, Google and some other tech companies in Silicon Valley have been test users, using them to supplement grid power especially during peak hours. Haven't seen or heard anything about pricing, although the creator certainly seems optimistic about the cost effectiveness of his manufacturing process which uses "inks" to lay down the anode & cathode on a ceramic plate.

Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 2,495
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Fuel cells have been hyped as "going to be available within the next few years" for about ten years and so far nothing happened... so I'm not really holding my breath on that one. We'll see though.

Joined: Mar 2005
Posts: 1,803
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Let's say it works efficiently, has a long life-cycle and is cheap enough to sell en masse. What about us folks 25 miles or more from the nearest methane gas main? The price of transmitted electricity will skyrocket if you cut a massive chunk out of the generators' base load to the grid. That leaves us with bottled gas or a home generator set.


Wood work but can't!
Joined: Mar 2005
Posts: 1,213
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What would be truely awesome is if this technology can mature and replace diesel generators as a stand-by source. No moving parts? No maintenance? Compact and reliable? Yes, please!

Even better if they can figure out a way to have it function as a UPS as well, one that's not limited to 5 or 15 minutes of battery, but will run as long as you have fuel going to it.

Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 7,283
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There is a fuel cell at a major hotel in the Twp I work in. I did not do any of the inspections, and don't know the specs; but it's about equal to a 40' tractor trailer.

It has been out of service quite often since it was commisioned in 2003/2004 with various maint. issues. Last year there started to be talk that it is being removed, as the maintenance costs &/or repair costs do not justify the benefits.

That said, I'm all for alternative energy sources, and perhaps this 'Boom Box' will function as it is hyped, and the $$$ to have one is not astronomical.

A great place to put them would be at the landfills, as methane is a by-product from the trash! That would help curtail a price spike for natural gas, and make this process a real money maker.

We have a lot of upcoming solar panel installs coming up. Our POCO is in the final approval stage of a 15 MW, and the town I live in is pondering a 20 acre setup over a closed landfill. Perhaps the "boom Box' would be a better choice there???



John
Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 5,389
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sparky Offline OP
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well i see they're installing them on university rooftops, and i wondered if i'd be getting calls from homeowners who just bought thier Bloombox at the big orange place soon

honestly, i wouldn't know where to start on it....

~S~

Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 7,283
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Yes Sparky, that little 4" thing would be tough!

It will be interesting to see what a finished unit looks like. Real world...if that thing in his hand could power my house, and the $$$ was reasonable, I'm on the waiting list for one.

Heck, where does the gas piping go? Where's the power connections?

TBC


John
Joined: Jun 2004
Posts: 1,273
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Member
IIRC, these units -- and all fuel cells -- suffer from the oderants that distributors inject into their networks.

Most oderants are mercaptans which contain sulfur...

That's what makes them stink.

Of course, sulfur is poison to the catalysts used in fuel cells.

A mercaptan pre-filter is apparently a touchy thing.


Tesla
Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 9,672
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I just read an article on them. The cost is about $8 a watt so your typical 200a service would cost $192,000 before you bought any fuel. Granted you probably don't really use 200a but that is the standard size service these days.
Love them or hate them, electrical utilities can get power to your house a lot cheaper than you can make it yourself.


Greg Fretwell
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