Bloom Energy Server Pushes Green Power Forward

A car-sized fuel cell-based power plant, known as the Bloom Energy Server, could power up to 100 U.S. homes and fit in the driveway.

As the green energy movement works to keep momentum in the United States, a Silicon Valley-based startup known as Bloom Energy emerged after nine years of closely guarded research to unveil the Bloom Energy Server, a solid oxide fuel cell technology, which provides distributed power generation, allowing customers to create their own electricity onsite. The company introduced the technology at an event hosted today at eBay headquarters along with several high-profile guests including California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gen. Colin Powell.

Bloom describes its fuel cell technology as "fundamentally different" from the legacy hydrogen fuel cells 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," the company claimed in a release. "Unlike traditional renewable energy technologies, like solar and wind, which are intermittent, Bloom's technology can provide renewable power 24/7."

Each Bloom Energy Server provides 100 kilowatts (kW) of power in roughly the footprint of a parking space; Bloom claims each system generates enough power to meet the needs of approximately 100 average U.S. homes or a small office building. Customers who require more power can purchase and stack, thanks to the Energy Server casing's modular architecture, additional units, which are likely to cost between $700,000 and $800,000.

"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."

Sridhar said 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," he said.

The company also released a list of corporate clients, including Google, eBay and Bank of America, which have deployed the servers. Since the first commercial customer installation in July 2008, Bloom's Energy Servers have collectively produced more than 11 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity, with CO2 reductions estimated at 14 million pounds - which Bloom states is the equivalent of powering approximately 1,000 American homes for a year and planting one million trees.

As companies such as Bloom Energy are working to provide a more sustainable path to future energy needs, the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Energy Star program is making progress in the number of Energy Star-qualified homes. In November 2009, the EPA passed the 1 million qualified homes mark; and the EPA noted in 2009, families living in Energy Star qualified homes saved more than $270 million on their utility bills, while avoiding greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from about 370,000 vehicles.