The Exploding Bloom Box

February 25, 2010 | 19 Comments

With much coordinated anticipation Bloom Energy revealed their Bloom Box  (BB) fuel cell to the press yesterday. With working units sold and operating on sites in California naysaying has to be a real hard task.

There are articles and blogs rich in interesting details and after an hour or so of looking through them I encourage you to just choose a few of your favorites for the hype.

Meanwhile, lets review that Data Sheet, where the due diligence would begin, before making the call for a spot on what will be a waiting list.

The Bloom Box Flowing Electrons. Please click the link to the Bloom Energy Movie page.

The BB runs on natural gas or a methane from biogas, what moist are seeing as older landfills tapped for the naturally and stimulated methane output.  The Data sheet nor any of the articles are saying just how pure the methane has to be.  The gas flows at a moderate 15 psi.  Nothing scary or alarming here.

The other fuel, oxygen is from the air.  No article or blog I’ve seen is covering if the is an air separation to pure oxygen and the Data Sheet is listing NOx at a really minor number.  If you come across that information post it to the comments for everyone.

The Data Sheet is allowing for 100kW AC with an electrical efficiency of better than 50%.  Power take off is at 480V @ 60 Hz in a 3 phase 4 wire interconnect.  Elsewhere on the site the potential is listed for taking power off DC, which is what lots of data handling installations would use in great volume.

The BB is bigger than first imagined.  At 18.6 x 7 x nearly 7 feet it’s larger than full sized pickup truck.  That doesn’t matter, but it gives a sense of scale when looking over then photos.

At just less than 3/8ths of a ton of CO2 per full rated operating hour the BB won’t be making the green crowd joyous.  Nor will the rating claim.   But these kinds of things in data sheets tend to be careful choices that any unit can make.  And we are after looking at Ver. 1.0 something.

Curiously, without much discussion the active agent is steam in the dry steam zone past 700º C.  Now, no one is looking at 15 psi methane, oxygen and dry steam in close vicinity at 700º C. Thus, the obvious safety matters haven’t been addressed.  The Data Sheet claims the units pass Underwriters Lab FC-1.  Keep in mind; there is very little experience at UL for fuel cells.

It also seems that an energy take off can be made of hydrogen requiring a water supply, a sort of have the cake and some frosting slipping over the side for later enjoyment.  The Data Sheet is using ‘municipal water’ for a source, but one has to wonder what the chemicals carried along will do to the ink coated types of anode and cathode.

The Bloom Energy Site has been filled out with an attractive array of info.  Lots of critical stuff is missing, no one is saying the BB is a mission critical unit.  It’s Ver. 1.0 something.

That’s enough – from recalling points made early in the week.  The venture capital wants to get on with the initial public offering, where the big bucks are made.  You will want to look over that data sheet very carefully.  We need to have a look at where those incentives are by state, California at 20% and the Feds kicking 30% more isn’t the same as everywhere.  That hard fast fuel cost included amortization seems elusive as well.  Don’t pretend to understand, the BB looks to be closer to the quoted 50% than 90%.

And finally, this is version one.  It will be competitively answered.  The IPO stockholders will be buying into the a race to the lowest cost kilowatt-hour.  The BB isn’t the leader yet, but hopes and crossed fingers, prayers and creative drive are making progress now.

We’ll have another look in a few weeks as more info might slip out.


19 Comments so far

  1. Vincenzo Liso on February 26, 2010 8:06 AM

    “The other fuel, oxygen is from the air. ”
    Oxygen is not a fuel it is an oxidant!
    There is no need of an air separator to pure oxygen because the oxygen react electrochemically in the fuel cell whereas the nitrogen will act as an inert gas.

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  3. Scumlabs on September 27, 2010 2:07 PM

    Very exciting stuff. looking forward to this kind of thing in the future, maybe cars will be powered by it.

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