The Bloom Box: Power Plant in a Box?

The Bloom BoxThe Bloom Box fuel cell was officially launched on Wednesday of this week. There has been a lot of hype around this four billion dollar experiment and also a lot of support from corporate and political heavyweights.  Colin Powell sits in the board of Bloom Energy and Bloom Energy founder K.R. Sridhar can already boast big name clients such as Google, who was the first to start utilizing the Bloom Box to supplement their existing power sources. Ebay, another huge participant in Bloom Box experiment, has recorded a savings of more than $100,000 in energy costs in the nine months since they purchased the five boxes. Simply put, Sridhar has begun to impress very large customers. Of course, at as much as $800,000 per unit, it would be very difficult for the Bloom Box to impress small players. In fact, the immense cost involved with these so called affordable units make Sridhar’s dream of having a Bloom Box in homes across the planet far fetched at best and an expensive pipe dream at worst.

So why is the Bloom Box being touted as the affordable fuel cell? Well it is all about the materials inside the box. Most fuel cells require platinum and/or other precious metals, and utilize pure hydrogen. The Bloom Box, however, uses an inexpensive metal alloy, disks made of beach sand (ceramic), some mysterious paint, and it feeds on oxygen and a methane mixture. Sridhar is also confident that he will eventually be able to bring the price of home units down to about $3000 USD

The cost is not the only concern that has been voiced in regards to the Bloom Box. In fact for as many supporters that Sridhar has managed to rally, there seems to be umpteen naysayers. Beyond the typical problems associated with fuel cells, other possible detriments include the possibility of high carbon dioxide emissions and, of course, high competition in the race to be the first company to create a viable fuel cell.

It will be interesting to observe how the Bloom Box story plays out and the effect it will have on residential and commercial steel buildings.

Watch the 60 Minutes interview, filmed earlier this week, of the “power plant in a box” here: BloomBox Experiment


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