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Skeptical Debunker

Bloom Energy Promises Cheap, Emissions-Free Power From a Small Box | Popular Science - 0 views

  • The Bloom Box idea came from K.R. Sridhar, a former NASA rocket scientist who once built a similar box device to generate oxygen on Mars for future colonists. Sridhar simply turned the concept on its head by pumping oxygen into the box, along with fuel. The oxygen and fuel combine within a new type of fuel cell to create the chemical reaction that makes electricity. There's also no need for power lines coming in from an outside source, and Sridhar envisions the box eventually providing energy wirelessly to homes and businesses. That could do away with traditional power plants and the power grid. Such transformative power may only come about if the Bloom Box fuel cells can work reliably and efficiently -- other fuel cell technologies have proven notoriously finicky. Sridhar makes his fuel cells based on cheap sand-based ceramics, coated with special green and black "inks" that allow for the chemical reaction which makes electricity. One of the simple disks can power a light bulb, and a stack of 64 disks with cheap metal plates in between them can supposedly power a Starbucks. And unlike fuel cells that require pure hydrogen, the Bloom Box can use fuels ranging from natural gas to bio-gas.
    A boxy power plant that could one day produce efficient, inexpensive, clean energy in every home might sound like a pipe dream, but it's the very real product of a Silicon Valley startup called Bloom Energy. Twenty large corporations that include Google, FedEx, Walmart and eBay have already purchased and begun testing the Bloom Boxes. 60 Minutes recently got a sneak peek at this possibly game-changing energy device.
    Here's SOME of the "rubs". How long will the device's last and what are the maintenance costs (if any)? What will the cost of the fuel be and how much is used? Will the manufacturing process "scale up nicely" (and easily) so that "economies of scale" will actually bring the price of a home-system down to around $3-5K? Will the price of the system, its maintenance, and fuel actually come out to be significantly less than the price of "grid delivered" electricity? Without "good enough" answers to such questions, this system may be more of a good remote generation facility than a grid replacement.
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