Bloom Box: Power Industry Game-Changer or Hype?

A Silicon Valley start-up is getting ready to unveil an energy device this week that executives say could one day power individual homes and businesses while replacing the traditional power grid.

Bloom Energy, one of the 26 companies named in the World Economic Forum's list of top 2010 Tech Pioneers , took some of the wraps off its Bloom Box in a story that ran last night on the CBS television show 60 Minutes .

An interview with K.R. Sridhar, CEO of Bloom Energy, during the piece has created significant online buzz, including descriptions of the Bloom Box device as the "Holy Grail of clean energy."

Bloom Energy is expected to unveil the new device on Wednesday.

Sridhar said the box is mostly a collection of fuel cells that use oxygen and fuel to create electricity without creating any emissions. Oxygen is drawn into one side of the cell, while a fuel, such as a natural gas or bio-fuel, is drawn into the other side. The two combine within the cell and produce a chemical reaction that creates energy without any burning or combustion.

Sridhar said in the interview with 60 Minutes he's hoping that within 10 years Bloom Boxes are placed in backyards or basements to power homes. He estimated the cost of systems for individual homes at about $3,000.

Sridhar also noted that 20 corporate big hitters, including FedEx Corp., Wal-Mart Stores Inc, eBay Inc. and Google Inc. are already using Bloom Boxes on a trial basis.

Google spokeswoman Niki Fenwick said in an e-mail to Computerworld that an undisclosed number of Bloom Boxes installed at the company are already supplying a "portion" of the energy needs at its Mountain View campus.

"This is just another on-site renewable energy source that we're exploring to help power our facilities," she added. "We have a 400 kilowatt [Bloom Box] installation on Google's main campus that delivers clean and affordable power. Over the first 18 months, the project has had 98% availability and delivered 3.8 million kilowatts of electricity."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld . Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin , send e-mail to sgaudin@computerworld.com or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed .

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