The Bloom Box: An Energy Breakthrough? – CBS News
The world of energy and entrepreneurship is crackling with electric anticipation this week after an India-born scientist-CEO provided a sneak peek over the weekend at a clean and efficient model of power generation-in-a-box that could eliminate the traditional grid and challenge monopolies.
Supporters are claiming that K R Sridhar’s ‘Bloom Box’, scheduled for a big-splash unveiling in Silicon Valley on Wednesday, could be the Holy Grail of the world’s energy quest; but even sceptics agree that it is a unique “power plant-in-a-box’’. What acres of power grid can generate, Sridhar’s Bloom Box can crank out in a fraction of the footprint—and in a squeaky clean manner.
It is already being done—on the campuses of Google and eBay among others. FedEx, Wal-Mart and Staples are among a score of Fortune 100 companies that have signed up as clients. Former US secretary of state Colin Powell, among those who endorse the technology, is on the board of directors of Sridhar’s Bloom Energy, an eightyear-old stealth start-up that raised more than $400 million from Silicon Valley’s venture capitalists at a time the region’s economy was in a tailspin.
At its heart, Sridhar’s Bloom Box claims to be a game-changing fuel cell device that consists of a stack of ceramic disks coated with secret green and black “inks’’. The disks are separated by cheap metal plates. Stacking the ceramic disks into a bread loaf-sized unit, he says, can produce one kilowatt of electricity, enough to power an American home—or four Indian homes. Bloom boxes could power homes in five years
Washington: The Bloom Box of India-born K R Sridhar which, some say, is a power plant-in-a-box, can be installed anywhere and be connected to an electrical grid. Hydrocarbons such as natural gas or biofuel (stored in an adjacent tank) are pumped into the Bloom Box to produce clean, abundant, reliable electricity.
Sridhar’s Bloom Energy says the unit does not vibrate, emits no sound and has no smell, although he admits to some initial, but minor, glitches at some installations.
The big catch right now is cost. Large-sized Bloom Boxes of the kind installed at some Silicon Valley campuses costs around $700,000 to $800,000. Sridhar estimates that a Bloom Box for the residential market could be out in 5 to 10 years for as little as $3,000 to produce electricity 24/7/365.
But Silicon Valley, whose major venture capitalist Kleiner Perkins bankrolled Bloom Energy, is endorsing the technology. eBay said it has already saved $100,000 in electricity costs since its five boxes were installed nine months ago. It even claims that the Bloom Boxes generate more power than the 3,000 solar panels at its headquarters.
Prior to founding Bloom Energy, Sridhar was a professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering at the University of Arizona. He is also, literally, a rocket scientist, having served as an advisor to Nasa in the areas of nanotechnology and planetary missions.