Bloom Energy Officially Unveils Bloom Box, Energy Server

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The wait is over: Bloom Energy is currently showing off its Bloom Box fuel cell technology at eBay headquarters in San Jose, California. In addition to Bloom Energy founder K.R. Sridhar, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger are also in attendance.

The San Jose Mercury, which is covering the event, reports:

Tech journalists joined Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bloom cofounder and CEO K.R. Sridhar, venture capitalist John Doerr and former Secretary of State Colin Powell at eBay’s San Jose headquarters to learn how Bloom, which has raised about $400 million from investors, plans to mass produce its solid oxide fuel cells.

Google, FedEx and Wal-Mart are among the companies beta-testing the technology; several Bloom Boxes are in use on the eBay campus.

EBay started using five Bloom Energy Servers in July. They produce electricity to power space for 2,000 to 3,000 employees and shaved $100,000 off eBay’s power bill, says Amy Skoczlas Cole, director of eBay’s Green Team. EBay uses natural gas in the boxes but will switch to methane gas from an Oklahoma landfill this spring.

But they’re not cheap: The commercial-scale boxes, which look like a big refrigerator, cost $700,000 to $800,000.

Bloom Energy’s website had been behind a hype-inducing countdown curtain, but now it’s live, with plenty of information on the company’s long-awaited fuel cells. According to their press release, the Bloom Energy Server — which is comprised of sequenced solid oxide fuel cells — is a cleaner, more efficient power source than almost any current commercial source:

The Bloom Energy Server converts air and nearly any fuel source – ranging from natural gas to a wide range of biogases – into electricity via a clean electrochemical process, rather than dirty combustion. Even running on a fossil fuel, the systems are approximately 67% cleaner than a typical coal-fired power plant. When powered by a renewable fuel, they can be 100% cleaner. Each Energy Server consists of thousands of Bloom’s fuel cells – flat, solid ceramic squares made from a common sand-like “powder.”

Wired writer Michael Kanellos found a 2006 patent filed by Bloom that refers to “yttria stabilized zirconia” and platinum electrodes and speculates that that might be the Bloom Box’s “secret ingredient,” although he rightly cautions that it’s often tough to decipher new technologies based on abstruse patents alone.

Early-adopting corporations might be able to stomach the $700-800k price tagged cell, but the great hope for consumers is Sridhar’s assertion that in 5-10 years, he hopes that the Bloom Box can evolve into a $3000 home unit that can wirelessly power an entire US home.

Hypey? Absolutely. Does the $3000 price tag sound wildly ambitious? Yes. But the top-shelf companies currently testing the device — as well as the coterie of Silicon Valley and political figures who risk looking awful foolish if the Bloom Box fizzles out — give us hope that the hype may bear fruit.

In case you missed it, here’s the 60 Minutes segment from this past weekend that introduced the Bloom Box to the world at large:

(image via Mashable)

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