Bloom Box: Breakthrough or Blowout?
Is the Bloom Box a marginally improved fuel cell or will it lead us into a new era of energy generation?
K.R. Sridhar, CEO of Bloom Energy, has just unveiled the Bloom Box to the public. He believes the device will power the world, one household at a time. He just may be right. The Bloom Box is comprised of fuel cells that are apparently composed of common materials like those found in beach sand. After the fuel cell's ceramic disks are baked and painted with special inks, they are then stacked and installed into sealed weatherproof boxes that are designed to sit outside of customers' buildings. Following installation, the Bloom Box begins to operate by taking in oxygen and fuel, which then react in the fuel cells to produce electricity at a much higher efficiency than standard fuel-powered generators.
To advocates, the Bloom Box is a "magic" perpetual-motion machine, one that will produce off-grid, clean, cheap electricity. Corporate giants such as Ebay, Google, and FedEx are all early beta customers, and they have installed the Bloom Box at several of their locations. And in Ebay's case, they reported that just a small test installation of Bloom Boxes led to a $100,000 reduction in energy costs in less than a year.
However, skeptics believe that Sridhar has simply produced a marginally improved fuel cell, and that he has still not solved the cost problem since each box currently costs over $700,000. There are also concerns about the Bloom Box's use of non-renewable resources such as natural gas for fuel, emissions of carbon dioxide and long-term reliability. Time will show if the Bloom Box, resulting from the estimated $400+ Million invested in Bloom Energy, will truly lead us into a new era of energy generation.