# Bloom Energy

1. Feb 22, 2010

### DR13

Did anyone see the 60 minutes piece on the Bloom Box that was on last night? Do you guys think that this is a viable option in the alternative energy? Do you think that this could actually power all of our homes in the next decade or so?

Link to the report: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6228923n" [Broken]

Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
2. Feb 22, 2010

### TaylorRatliff

Re: Bloom Box

This is an interesting development, the real question is how much more efficient is this than current power generation tech? You still need fuel, for example gasoline, but a slow chemical reaction could be orders of magnitude more efficient than combustion.

I guess we'll find out Wednesday. Every bone in my body wants to declare shenanigans, but this so far appears to be legitimate. What is especially interesting is that many companies such as Google, Ebay, and Walmart are already using the industrial version of the Bloom Box.

3. Feb 22, 2010

### Astronuc

Staff Emeritus
Re: Bloom Box

4. Feb 22, 2010

### Kenneth Mann

Re: Bloom Box

Maybe we should combine this string and the one I started yesterday. in the Electrical Engineering section.

KM

5. Feb 22, 2010

### DR13

Re: Bloom Box

How much more efficient do these boxes make energy (eg we put in X amount and we get out X + more)? Or am I misunderstanding what these boxes do?

6. Feb 22, 2010

### TaylorRatliff

Re: Bloom Box

Well you can never get in more than you put out, but you can get closer to 100% efficiency.

Think of a gasoline engine in a car, only a small amount of the chemical potential energy in the gasoline is converted into kinetic energy, a lot is lost in the form of heat.

7. Feb 22, 2010

### mgb_phys

Re: Bloom Box

If you want electrical power I would have thought it was difficult to make a fuel cell that is LESS efficent than combustion->heat->expansion->piston/turbine->generator.

But if you want rotary motion then fuel->expansion->piston->crank is better than fuel cell->electricity->motor.

8. Feb 22, 2010

### Topher925

Re: Bloom Box

Its nothing more than another flavor of a SOFC (Solid Oxide Fuel Cell). The "bloom box" is not some new source of energy, its an energy conversion device based on the same electrochemical principles that all other fuel cells use. And so far, Bloom Energy has made no claims that most other fuel cell companies can not. Until they make claims of conversion efficiency of over 75%, lifetime of 100k+ hours, and a very low price tag (from the video, they are no where close), its just another overrated start-up.

BTW, you will never have one of these in your home unless you live in a very rural area. No one is going to trade electric wires for gas lines going to their house and pay an extra premium for it. Doing such a thing would be asinine.

9. Feb 22, 2010

### DR13

Re: Bloom Box

Yeah, ok, that is what I meant

And sorry Kenneth Mann I didnt see your thread. I would think combining them would be fine.

10. Feb 22, 2010

### Topher925

Re: Bloom Box

How do you figure? An ICE engine has 35% mechanical efficiency tops. Most never come anywhere close to that. SOFCs are usually 65-70% efficient, PEMFCs about 50%, and electric drive systems are around 95% efficient.

0.65*0.95 = 62% overall efficiency for a SOFC.

62% > 35%

I dont see how thermal engines are better?

11. Mar 1, 2010

### mheslep

Re: Bloom Box

That's odd. Though there are several firms claiming they have products in development and are running demonstration projects, I can not find a single SOFC firm that is actually in production with a model competitive with Bloom. Australian based Ceramic Fuel Cells Ltd seems to be closest as they have some demonstration projects but they are also http://www.cfcl.com.au/FAQs/#4" [Broken].

A comparable SOFC firm would have a turnkey residential/office size or larger compatible fuel cell in commercial production now, uses natural gas fuel with a 50% or better hydrocarbon-to-AC-electricity rating, with an upfront cost of $7.5 per Watt or better. For that matter, the only fuel cell firm I can find using any technology, not just SOFC, that is in the ball park with Bloom is Fuel Cell Energy in Connecticut; they cite http://www.fuelcellenergy.com/files/FCE%20DFC300_Product_Sheet_032508.pdf" [Broken]. (That 3% difference is worth$7.2 million / year at 10 cents/kWh)

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12. Mar 1, 2010

### mheslep

Re: Bloom Box

In one includes the reformer, I believe that's high by 10-15%. Theoretical or demonstration projects may do better but nothing actually on the market does. Still I agree no ICE will be more efficient than a fuel cell + electric motor.

13. Mar 1, 2010

### mgb_phys

I though SOFCs were nearer 50% - and that assumed running them on hydrogen ?
Common rail turbo-diesel are almost 50%

If you can get 65-70% from a SOFC on a reasonable fuel (CNG/diesel/LPG) that would be interesting

14. Mar 2, 2010

### mheslep

Do you know of a make/model? I heard of large marine diesels getting close to that but not locos. I thought most of the loco diesels in service were more like high 30's -40's.

15. Aug 28, 2010

### mheslep

Re: Bloom Box

Thousand.

16. Aug 30, 2010

### gmax137

Re: Bloom Box

I guess I missed the 60 Minutes piece the first time around (back in February); but I saw it in re-run last night.

That's exactly what I thought when I saw the piece. And just because NG is cheep now doesn't mean it will be next year.

Also, they said the unit used "half" the NG as conventional power generation combustion turbines. I'm thinking that's good, but it's still making a hell of alot of CO2 compared to, say, nuclear...

17. Aug 30, 2010

### mheslep

Re: Bloom Box

Agreed. They're essentially suggesting replacing the E grid with a NG pipeline grid, to gain, what?
Given the shale gas reserves in the US reasonable gas prices are nearly certain at least in the near term.

I missed "half". Bloom claims 50% efficiency, which is good but nowhere near twice as good as combustion, so 'half' the NG must be a bogus claim.

True, but it sure would take a great deal of the difficulty out of reducing CO2 by pushing coal aside. Plus FC's like this can be supplemented with biogas, which would net out CO2 to near zero.

18. Sep 1, 2010

### sonnenenergie

On 24 February 2010, Sridhar told Todd Woody of The New York Times that his devices are making electricity for 8–10 cents/kWh using natural gas, which is cheaper than today's electricity prices in some parts of the United States, such as California.http://sunrent.de/smileyhappy.ico Twenty percent of the Bloom Energy Server cost savings depend upon avoiding transfer losses that result from energy grid use.

Bloom Energy is developing Power Purchase Agreements to sell the electricity produced by the boxes, rather than sell the boxes themselves, in order to address customers' fears about box maintenance, reliability and servicing costs.http://sunrent.de/smileyhappy.ico

Fifteen percent of the power at eBay is created with Bloom technology; after tax incentives that paid half the cost eBay expects "a three-year payback period" for the remaining half, based on California's \$0.14/kWh cost of commercial electricity.http://sunrent.de/smileyhappy.ico

19. Sep 1, 2010

### dr dodge

how do these two statements work? If 20% of the efficiency comes from not using the grid, then how do you sell the power, other that "rent a bloom" and pay the energy costs + their rent on the unit?

That then puts the household consumer out of the loop, or gets you caught in a monopoly of "I unhooked from the grid, and use a bloom box, so must pay what they say" instead of outright purchase.

Based upon the fact that they want to only "rent" them, now I have to wonder what realistic life cycle and repair costs would be after 3-5 years. The real advantage in ICE's is that in all reality they can be overhauled numerous times for significantly less cost than replacing them (assuming the thing was properly maintained)

dr

20. Sep 1, 2010

### Staff: Mentor

...not including the depreciation of the Bloom Box itself, of course.

21. Sep 1, 2010

### mheslep

How do you know that there's any advantage over the Bloom Box? That is, why couldn't the BB be similarly overhauled if need be?

22. Sep 1, 2010

### Topher925

I question this as well. Since on average the grid is about 93% efficient at delivering electricity the above statement makes no sense to me either.

FCs actually have the advantage when it comes to overhaul. FCs themselves are much simpler and easier to service than a comparable ICE and the systems are almost always modular. They are also a lot more fun to take apart since you don't get covered in oil and muck.

23. Sep 3, 2010

### Jon Richfield

Re: Bloom Box

Right. And some of the guys are talking of "orders of magnitude" greater efficiency. As a general rule the term is used to mean factors of 10. Even a fairly trashy internal combustion engine would reach 100% in far less than one order of magnitude improvement, even without exploiting waste heat. I am all in favour of improving fuel efficiency, and FCs seem particularly good options in theory, but let's keep things in perspective, hm?
Cheers,
Jon

24. Sep 3, 2010

### dr dodge

if the exhaust were "conditioned" it would be very easy to seperate the water and co2, and then the co2 could be captured, compressed and stored. Later on the co2 could be used for a multitude of things, or if cap and trade happens, could be used as a "currency" of carbon tax. My real concern, is as with any idea that seems too good to be true, and is all in the control of a few individuals, how stable is the long term costs.
If its construction was public knowledge, competition eventually drives costs down, but in monopoly situations, any savings can potentially vaporize if the rental costs are un controlled.

I am pleasently optimistic, but have seen the fuel cell idea go around for darn'd near 20 years and still don't see them used much, and their costs have remained high

dr

25. Sep 3, 2010

### mheslep

You are referring to a combustion engine?

Coming up on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_cell#History".

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