Monday, February 22, 2010

Bloom Energy to reveal the Bloom Box on Wednesday

Here's another reason why it is the ultimate folly to burn natural gas "to make oil".

It is something called a "Bloom Box", invented by rocket scientist and visionary, K.R. Sridhar.

What it is is a compact unit, fully scalable, that can power anything from a home to a neighbourhood to a building complex and can use a variety of fuels, such as natural gas or even bio-waste. The maker, Bloom Energy, is revealing its product to the public this Wednesday, but offered a sneak peak on 60 Minutes last night.

This project has some big-time backing. The same guy, John Doerr, of  Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, who was involved in financing Netscape, Amazon and Google (and also such belly flops as the Segway), has driven financial backing into place behind Bloom Energy to the tune of something like $400 mil.

This is not one of those pipe dreams that may or may not ever see the light of day. Google, the first major buyer of the units, has been using them for a year and a half. eBay is powering 15% of one of its major campuses with five big Bloom Boxes. In the case of eBay, CEO John Donahoe points out that the Bloom Boxes are providing more power than acres of solar panels on eBay corporate roofs. Not only that, the eBay units are fueled by landfill bio-waste, making the whole equation carbon-neutral. The eBay unit has saved $100,000 in power costs over nine months.

Obviously an innovation such as this has repercussions throughout commerce and industry.

A couple of key facts: It seems that the Bloom Box only uses the equivalent of half of the natural gas to produce the same amount of electricity as a conventional natural gas power plant. Another advantage of locating the units on site is that something like half of the power ever generated is lost in transmission.

K.R. Sridhar sees his units installed across the world in the next 5 to 10 years. Let's hope he's right...

And let's hope we haven't burned all our natural gas making oil by that time, which is what Canada is doing in the Alberta Tar Sands.

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