Today, K.R. Sridhar a former NASA employee will officially unveil what he and his company Bloom Energy have been working on in virtual secrecy for the last 4 years. The Bloom Energy power box.
With the help of an estimated $400 million in private funding, Bloom Energy took technology from an oxygen generator meant for a scrapped NASA Mars program, and converted them into refrigerator sized fuel cell power units that are currently being used by corporate clients like Walmart, FedEx, Ebay, and Google.
The corporate-sized cells cost $700,000 to $800,000 and are installed at 20 customers you’ve already heard of including FedEx and Wal-mart — Google was first to this green energy party, using its Bloom Boxes to power a data center for the last 18 months. Ebay has installed its boxes on the front lawn of its San Jose location. It estimates to receive almost 15% of its energy needs from Bloom, saving about $100,000 since installing its five boxes 9 months ago
Bloom Energy’s design feeds oxygen into one side of a cell while fuel (natural gas, bio gas from landfill waste, solar, etc) is supplied to the other side to provide the chemical reaction required for power. The cells themselves are inexpensive ceramic disks painted with a top-secret green “ink” on one side and a black “ink” on the other. The disks are separated by a cheap metal alloy, instead of more precious metals like platinum, and stacked into a cube of varying capabilities — a stack of 64 can power a small business like Starbucks, or more importantly, a small home. According to Bloom, two units could power a large American household greater than 3000 square feet. Pretty impressive don’t you think.
Bloom makes about one box a day at the moment and believes that within 5 to 10 years it can drive down the cost to about $3,000 to make it suitable for home use.
I can’t wait for the official announcement and press release to see where this going. I think this is one of the more exciting green energy announcements from the last few years. Last Sunday there was a full interview with Bloom Energy on 60 Minutes. You can see the video here.