by Nick Gromicko
A Bloom Box® is a refrigerator-sized domestic power plant that produces electricity cleanly and cheaply, and may one day replace the traditional power grid. Its inventor wants to put one in every home by the year 2020.
The Bloom Box® is the creation of Bloom Energy, a Sunnyvale, California-based company that promises to revolutionize energy with its “power plant in a box.” While essentially a fuel cell – green energy devices that have been around for decades and have yet to compete with even marginal renewable energy sources – Bloom Energy claims to have designed a product that could transform how buildings are powered. A recent 60 Minutes interview with Bloom Energy’s CEO, combined with a handful of high-profile customers, have generated buzz among environmentalists, engineers and builders.
How Do They Work?
The technology for the Bloom Box® comes from an oxygen generator originally designed for NASA's Mars program. When that program was scrapped, the design was converted, with the help of $400 million in funding, into a new type of fuel cell. In Bloom's design, fuel and oxygen are fed to cells (relatively inexpensive, painted ceramic disks) where they combine chemically to create electricity. The cells are separated by a cheap metal alloy, deviating from earlier designs that required precious metals, such as platinum. The cells are stacked into a cube of flexible capabilities; a stack of 64 can power a small business, but an assortment of sizes is fully customizable.
Bloom Boxes® in Service
Bloom Boxes® are still experimental, but 20 Fortune 100 companies in California have purchased the devices at $700,000 to $800,000 each. FedEx, Wal-Mart, eBay and Google have all taken advantage of state and federal subsides by purchasing Bloom Boxes® for use at their headquarters. The primary motive for these companies to embrace green power may be based in public relations, but eBay has boasted that its five boxes have saved the company $100,000 in energy costs.
Benefits of Bloom Boxes®
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