Tag Archives: fuel cell

Bloom Energy, an update – from start-up to acceleration, this company is winning

It’s been two years and time for an update on Bloom Energy. Back in February, 2010, the company made a big splash by announcing their technology and their customers.

The technology is revolutionary for the simple fact that it does not use steam-powered turbines. Every power plant in the world from coal to nuclear still uses a steam engine. Think Mark Twain on the Mississippi and you’re not far off.

This technology uses a Solid-Oxide fuel cell to convert natural gas into energy without combustion (or steam).

For decades, experts have agreed that solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) hold the greatest potential of any fuel cell technology. With low cost ceramic materials, and extremely high electrical efficiencies, SOFCs can deliver attractive economics without relying on CHP (steam). But until now, there were significant technical challenges inhibiting the commercialization of this promising new technology.

via Bloom Energy

The “low cost ceramic materials” is huge because traditional fuel cells use expensive and rare ones that America fights China for.

The other major component here is the “technical challenges” that Bloom has overcome using a term they call “R&D on steroids”.

As a venture capital backed company they have been able to rapidly iterate since 2001, resulting in some incredible efficiencies. The first is the fuel cell they launched in 2010 that requires half the natural gas for the same power from traditional sources.

The second, recently launched, allows for double the amount of power with the same cell. Put another way, with the same footprint you get 200 kw instead of 100 kw.

These innovations have been hugely popular among the right set of customers. Companies like Coca-Cola, Walmart, Google, Bank of America, AT&T, and Ebay have all installed the Bloom Servers at their offices.

That success is continuing as seen by the rapid growth in their workforce, which has increased by 70% since 2010, and added 1,000 manufacturing jobs in California. Not to mention establishing an international arm to push this technology worldwide.

Back in 2010, when the company was lauded as the next big thing many were skeptical, including myself. Here is my coverage of that press event launching Bloom Energy.

At this point, though, it seems clear that the only question is when GE will buy the company or start competing with them.

Why Bloom is a Game Changer

Wow!

What an exciting day in energy. Today Bloom Energy changed the game with their Bloom Server, here is why.

We all know the story that the vast majority of our energy comes from old (and dirty) power plants that use coal and nuclear energy sources. Well the hidden truth behind these “energy sources” is that all they do is heat water to create steam and move turbines. They make steam!

How ridiculous is that. We can send a robot to Mars but to power my iPhone I need some boiling water?

This ridiculous market paradigm is what Bloom hopes to exploit (and make billions in the process). They ignore the source argument over replacing coal and nuclear with wind, solar, or heat. Instead focusing on the energy process itself and applying advanced technology to wring some efficiency out of it.

K.R. Sridhar, CEO of Bloom, PhD, and former Director of Space Technologies at UofA, did just that. He found that a combination of fuel cells and natural gas can get 2x as much power as the steam process can (using same inputs). In his own words, they did it through old fashioned innovation:

“I call it R&D on steroids,” K.R. Sridhar said at the start-up’s offices. “We created an R&D platform where you continuously improve, validate and test. Learn why it broke and move on.”

That RD process has turned out one of the most promising energy technologies to date (imagine needing half as much coal). A fuel cell made out of sand and coated in a cheap metal “oxide” (they are keeping the recipe a secret). Each cell is super thin and just a few inches wide/long and capable of turning natural gas into electricity.

That is the fuel cell side to all this, although it doesn’t sound at all like traditional fuel cells.

The kicker is that this is not future technology. These fuel cells are already in place at many large business sites. Google is reported to be the first to have installed one while eBay, who hosted the press event, said to have five Bloom Servers providing %15 of their energy. A server is about 4,000 cells jammed into a black box that looks like an IT server.

That is just the beginning. This technology is so promising that everybody is joining the party. The press event was attended by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Colin Powell, Dianne Feinstein, and Michael Bloomberg (“make no mistake, when we look at Bloom, we are looking at the future of business, economy, and America”).

Finally, the VP and CEO’s of FedEx, Walmart, Staples, Google, Coca Cola, Bank of America, Cox, and eBay were on hand to explain why they love Bloom.

A star studded public relations event or the future of energy technology?

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CNet Live Blog Of Bloom Energy Press Event

Engadget Live Blog of Bloom Energy Press Event