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Published on February 28th, 2012 | by Glenn Meyers


Attractive Options for Modular Energy Architecture: the Bloom Energy Server

February 28th, 2012 by  

Bloom Energy modular energy servers at Adobe

Bloom Energy Server provides continuous onsite electricity from wide range of renewable or traditional fuel sources.

Hardly more than two years ago in Sunnyvale, CA, Bloom Energy Corporation, founded in 2001, announced its commitment to changing the way people generate and consume energy. To accomplish this, it offered the Bloom Energy Server, a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology reputed to offer “a cleaner, more reliable, and more affordable alternative to both today’s electric grid as well as traditional renewable energy sources.”

In attendance at this event held at eBay Inc. headquarters were former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, General Colin Powell, and several of its early customers, including Cox Enterprises, Bank of America, eBay, and Google, among others. The company continues moving forward, along with its customers. Earlier this month, Cox Enterprises announced the installation of five fuel cells at its San Diego subsidiary. The fuel cells join nine previous alternative energy projects in California. Combined, Cox’s 14 alternative energy installations in California are preventing some 15,500 tons of carbon emissions from entering the environment.

Bloom’s fuel cell technology is fundamentally different from the legacy hydrogen fuel cells most people are familiar with. The Bloom Energy Server is distinct in four primary ways: it uses lower cost materials, provides unmatched efficiency in converting fuel to electricity, has the ability to run on a wide range of renewable or traditional fuels, and is more easily deployed and maintained.

More important, unlike traditional renewable energy technologies, like solar and wind, which are intermittent, Bloom’s energy server can provide renewable power 24/7.

Specifically, each Bloom Energy Server – roughly the size of a parking space – provides 100 kilowatts (kW) of power. Translated in terms of capacity, each system can generate enough power for approximately 100 average U.S. homes, or a small office building. Modular architecture allows customers to start small and “pay as they grow,” states Bloom.

Customers buying Bloom’s systems are told to expect a 3-5 year payback on their capital investment from the energy cost savings.

“Bloom Energy is dedicated to making clean, reliable energy affordable for everyone in the world,” said Dr. KR Sridhar, principal co-founder and CEO of Bloom Energy. “We believe that we can have the same kind of impact on energy that the mobile phone had on communications.  Just as cell phones circumvented landlines to proliferate telephony, Bloom Energy will enable the adoption of distributed power as a smarter, localized energy source. Our customers are the cornerstone of that vision and we are thrilled to be working with industry leading companies to lower their energy costs, reduce their carbon footprint, improve their energy security, and showcase their commitment to a better future.“

History & How it Works

Bloom Energy can trace its roots to the NASA Mars space program. For NASA, Sridhar and his team were charged with building technology to help sustain life on Mars, using solar energy and water to produce air (for breathing) and fuel (for transportation). They soon realized that their technology could have an even greater impact here on Earth and began work on what would become the Bloom Energy Server.

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, not combustion.

This animation on how a solid oxide fuel cell works is useful. We look forward to hearing much more about advances in renewable energy from Bloom Energy.

Photos: Bloom Energy 
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About the Author

is a writer, producer, and director. Meyers was editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributing writer for CleanTechnica, and is founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.

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