'Bloom or bust' moment for NRI's green power technology

Discussion in 'Strategic Forces' started by Vinod2070, Feb 26, 2010.

  1. Vinod2070

    Vinod2070 मध्यस्थ Stars and Ambassadors

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    WASHINGTON: Hot air or cool energy? Hope or hype? Boom or bust? Savior or Segway? Hours before the official launch of a compact, new power plant-in-a-box that promises to change the world’s energy paradigm, speculation is rife over whether the so-called Bloom Box will live up to its billing.

    Bloom Energy’s principal scientist-CEO K.R.Sridhar has been incommunicado for the last 72 hours since CBS’ 60 minutes first broadcast a story about his breakthrough technology, but experts and analysts, bloggers and twitterati, geeks and gearheads, have taken apart the little information now in public domain to see if the promise of the holy grail of energy – cheap, clean power – is true.

    This much is known: Sridhar, a former NASA advisor, has devised a fuel cell contraption that combines oxygen and fossil fuel (like natural gas) to create electricity. The contraption can be the size of a loaf of bread (which can power a single home) or it can be scaled to the size of a refrigerator (to power, say, a large office building). It can be installed in your garage or back yard, independent of the larger transmission grid.

    There are questions and doubts aplenty, most notably about the costs, and Bloom Energy has promised to answer them at the formal launch at its client eBay’s headquarters in Silicon Valley on Wednesday at an event where California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected. But even Bloom buffs are warning against over-expectation, suggesting it is still a work in progress.

    This is because while fuel cell technology is not new -- it has been around for decades -- and no company had managed to scale down the costs and scale up production to make it viable. Not even giants like General Electric and Siemens, two companies that are closely watching Bloom bloom. Conspiracy theorists are already suggesting the Bloom hype is aimed at selling the technology to the biggies; some are even worrying for Sridhar’s life.The company's name, incidentally, was coined by Sridhar's nine-year old son.

    The 49-year-old mechanical engineer from Madras has been at the technology for eight years, in course of which he has managed to get Silicon Valley’s famed venture capitalists pony up nearly $ 400 million in funding, mainly from the storied firm of Kleiner Perkins, where another Indian geek, Sun Microsystems’ co-founded Vinod Khosla, is a general partner. Khosla has taken a back seat on the Bloom story, but it is being driven by his colleague John Doerr, prime investor in such successes as Netscape, Amazon, and Google, and an occasional lemon like Segway, an auto module that was expected to revolutionize transport but is now used by tour companies, on campuses, and by police.

    Sridhar’s technology centers round a floppy-disk sized ceramic tile coated with a secret "sauce" (both propriety technologies) that are stacked together into bread-loaf sized boxes which in-turn can be scaled up to the size of a refrigerator. When fossil fuels like natural gas or renewable like bio-gas are fed into this Bloom Box, it combines with oxygen to create a chemical reaction that produces electricity, with no need for power lines from an outside source. Several such boxes are working in Google, eBay and other well-known US firms to much acclaim and minimum problems.

    So what’s the big deal, since the Bloom Box still needs fuel – and why not use the fuel directly to product electricity as is traditionally done? Well, simply put, the Bloom Box produces more bang (electricity) for the buck (fuel). The precise numbers haven’t been provided, but roughly, the Bloom Box is said to produce double the amount of electricity the same fuel can produce by traditional methods. Plus there is savings in terms of real estate and infrastructure.

    According to eBay CEO John Donohoe, the company uses five Bloom Boxes that run on landfill waste-based bio-gas and generate more power than the company's 3,000 solar panels. A four-unit box, using natural gas, has been powering a Google data center for 18 months. Ball-park calculations indicate that a 30,000-square-foot office building would use four of these boxes, each costing between $ 700,000 to $ 800,000. The unknown factors include how much fuel it uses, wear and tear, and maintenance.

    But such is the excitement over the technology that even skeptics are willing it to succeed. "I'm skeptical. I'm hopeful but I'm skeptical," Michael Kanellos, Editor of GreenTechEnergy, told 60 Minutes. "'Cause people have tried fuel cells for since the 1830s. And they're great ideas, right? You know, producing energy at an instant. But they're not easy. They're like the divas of industrial equipment. The little plates inside have to work not just for an hour or a day, but they have to work for 30 years, nonstop. And then the box has to be cheap to make."

    Sridhar reckons it will be another five to ten years before the Bloom Box can be sized to residential requirements to cost around $ 3000. But that’s just the capital cost and doesn’t factor in the fuel input. By then, says Kanellos, giants like GE and Siemens will be in on to the game. The Bloom Box that may be in your basement, says Kanellos (who gives it a 20 per cent chance of the technology gaining ground) might well have a GE sticker on it.

    Some other skeptics have been even harsher. Amid raging debates on tech sites and blogs, one skeptic scoffed at the Bloom Box claims, asking if it could run on pixie dust and unicorn droppings. "I think whoever the PR flak was who got this on 60 minutes deserves a Maserati for a bonus. This is the biggest ass-kiss I've seen on a network in a loooong time," another sneered.
     
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  3. Vinod2070

    Vinod2070 मध्यस्थ Stars and Ambassadors

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    KR Sridhar
    Bloom Energy KR Sridhar is the principal co-founder and CEO of Bloom Energy. Prior to founding the company, Dr. Sridhar was a professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering as well as Director of the Space Technologies Laboratory (STL) at the University of Arizona. Under his leadership, STL won over $20 million in nationally competed R&D contracts.

    Dr. Sridhar has successfully assembled and led major project teams consisting of strategic consortia of industry, academia, and national labs, and has served as an advisor to NASA. Among his significant projects, Dr. Sridhar helped develop strategic plans for the space agency in the areas of nanotechnology and planetary missions. His work on NASA payloads to Mars which were designed to convert Martian atmospheric gases to oxygen for use in propulsion and life support were recognized by Fortune Magazine, where he was cited as one of the top five futurists that are inventing tomorrow, today.

    Dr. Sridhar has served on many technical committees, panels and Advisory Boards. He has over fifty publications, and has performed pioneering work in the areas of Space Technology, Microsensors and Devices, Multiphase Flow, and Solid Oxide Electrolysis and Systems, the last of which is the basis of the technology being used at Bloom Energy.

    Dr. Sridhar received his Bachelors Degree in Mechanical Engineering with Honors from the University of Madras, India, as well as his M.S. in Nuclear Engineering and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

    Dr. Sridhar enjoys interacting with K-12 children and inspiring them to learn math and science. He lives in Los Gatos, California with his wife and two children.
    Related Links: http://www.bloomenergy.com


    http://ecorner.stanford.edu/authorMaterialInfo.html?author=236
     
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  4. Vinod2070

    Vinod2070 मध्यस्थ Stars and Ambassadors

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    Sridhar giving some interesting technical details.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 10, 2015
  5. Vinod2070

    Vinod2070 मध्यस्थ Stars and Ambassadors

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    Let's see if and when we have these boxes powering our homes and small businesses.
     
  6. johnee

    johnee Elite Member Elite Member

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    Great innovation. Hope its successful and available in India soon. It could be a game changer.
     
  7. Vinod2070

    Vinod2070 मध्यस्थ Stars and Ambassadors

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    I think it will take about a decade to become cheap enough for use in India. If at all.

    Right now the cost is too high. I think it can potentially become a good way to take electricity to our remote villages. Also for us to get rid of all those UPS. I can see every office and housing society having these boxes if the price is right.
     
  8. johnee

    johnee Elite Member Elite Member

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    ^^thats why its a great innovation. Glad that an Indian did it.
     
  9. sayareakd

    sayareakd Moderator Moderator

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    If it works i want one for my home, some times it is very difficult in summers when there are powercuts (even in capital).
     
  10. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    NRI readies power plant in a box

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/NRI-readies-power-plant-in-a-box/articleshow/5605059.cms

    NRI readies power plant in a box

    WASHINGTON: The world of energy and entrepreneurship is crackling with electric anticipation this week after an India-born scientist-CEO provided a sneak peek over the weekend at a clean and efficient model of power generation-in-a-box that could eliminate the traditional grid and challenge monopolies.

    Supporters are claiming K.R.Sridhar’s ''Bloom box,'' scheduled for a big-splash unveiling in Silivon Valley on Wednesday, could be the Holy Grail of the world’s energy quest; and even skeptics agree that it is a unique ''power-plant-in-a-box.'' What acres of power grid can generate, Sridhar’s Bloom Box can crank out in a fraction of the footprint -- in a squeaky clean manner too.

    It is already being done -- on the campuses of Google and eBay among others. FedEx, Wal-Mart and Staples are among a score of Fortune 100 companies that have signed up as clients. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, among those who endorse the technology, is on the Board of Directors of Sridhar’s Bloom Energy, an eight-year old stealth start-up that raised more than $ 400 million from Silicon Valley’s venture capitalists at a time the region’s economy was in a tail-spin.

    At its heart, Sridhar’s Bloom Box claims to be a game-changing fuel cell device that consists of a stack of ceramic disks coated with secret green and black "inks." The disks are separated by cheap metal plates. Stacking the ceramic disks into a bread loaf-sized unit, says Sridhar, can produce one kilowatt of electricity, enough to power an American home – or four Indian homes.

    The unit can be scaled up, installed anywhere, and be connected to an electrical grid just like you would connect your PC to the Internet. Hydrocarbons such as natural gas or biofuel (stored separately) are pumped into the Bloom Box to produce clean, scaled-up, and reliable electricity. The company says the unit does not vibrate, emits no sound, and has no smell, although Sridhar admits to some initial, but minor, glitches at some installations.

    A hoax it is not, although some are suggesting there is a lot of hype around the launch -- somewhat like with that of the Segway transporter that was much bally-hooed but did not live up to its billing. As with Segway, the big catch right now is cost. Large-sized Bloom Boxes of the kind installed at some Silicon Valley campuses costs around $ 700,000 to $ 800,000. Sridhar estimates that a Bloom Box for the residential market could be out within a decade for as little as $3,000 to produce electricity 24/7/365. "In five to ten years, we would like to be in every home," Sridhar told CBS' "60 Minutes" on Sunday night.

    But Silicon Valley, whose major venture capitalist Kleiner Perkins’ bankrolled Bloom Energy, is endorsing the technology. EBay said it has already saved $100,000 in electricity costs since its 5 boxes were installed nine months ago. It even claims that the Bloom boxes generate more power than the 3,000 solar panels at its headquarters. Google has a 400 kilowatt installation from Bloom at its Mountain View headquarters. California’s governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will be at the launch, which is to take place on the eBay campus.

    The man at the center of all the excitement is Dr K.R. Sridhar, 49, who, prior to founding Bloom Energy, was a professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering as well as Director of the Space Technologies Laboratory (STL) at the University of Arizona. He is also, literally, a rocket scientist, having served as an advisor to NASA in the areas of nanotechnology and planetary missions. Sridhar initially developed the idea behind the Bloom Box while working with NASA, as a means of producing oxygen for astronauts landing on Mars.

    Dr. Sridhar received his Bachelors Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Madras, India, and moved to in the 1980s to the U.S, where he earned an M.S. in Nuclear Engineering and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, home to such start ups as Netscape. On Sunday, CBS’ 60 Minutes homed in on Sridhar’s breakthrough technology, bringing huge attention to Bloom Energy’s bare-bones website that ran a cryptic visual saying ''Be the Solution'' -- and a clock counting down to Wednesday’s launch.
     
  11. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    http://despardes.com/?p=14252

    Sridhar’s Magical “Bloom Box” Launched in USA


    [​IMG]

    New York: Co-founded by Indian-American K.R. Sridhar, Bloom Box has been launched in the United States. Bloom claims the generator to be a great energy saver and eco-friendly.

    Bloom Box is a collection of fuel cells which the company boasts of providing clean electricity to homes.

    Through Bloom Boxes, electricity can be distributed to companies and villages as well, boasts Bloom Energy. Even Google and eBay are using Bloom Boxes.

    Coca-Cola says its first Bloom fuel cells will be installed by September. Other clients are Bank of America, FedEx and Wal Mart.

    Yesterday Sridhar launched the box as colored lights bounced off the hulking black box on stage. “This is my baby, isn’t she beautiful?”

    “I would like to introduce to you the Bloom Energy Server,” said Bloom CEO K.R. Sridhar to applause at the Bloom Box presentation at eBay’s (EBAY) corporate headquarters in San Jose, California.


    Bloom’s co-founder and CEO K R Sridhar says, “This is not when the sun shines, this is not when the wind blows – this is base load, nonstop.”

    The presentation of the Bloom standby generator was followed with speeches by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Colin Powell.

    It is being touted as a Holy Grail in a box — clean, inexpensive full-cell energy, with each 100-kilowatt Bloom box being sold for $700,000 to $800,000.

    Sridhar, the 49-year-old scientist-turned entrepreneur has raised $400 million in venture capital for his Sunnyvale, California company bloom Energy.

    Sridhar, an India-born PhD who once led a team of NASA scientists trying to develop the technology to sustain life on Mars, held one of the modules in his hand when he show off his magical “Bloom Box” for the first time in public.

    Stacking them into a bread loaf-sized unit, he says, can produce one kilowatt of electricity, enough to power an American home. Sridhar explains that it has taken so long to produce this contraption because he is building not just a company but an entire industry. “You are used to market sizes that start with a ‘B’,” he told venture capitalists when the company launched in 2002. “This is a market size that starts with a ‘T’.”
     
  12. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    http://news.cnet.com/8301-13924_3-10460151-64.html


    The nitty-gritty details of the Bloom Energy box


    Bloom Energy CEO K.R. Sridhar spelled out, to a green-technology Web site, some of the finer details of how his start-up's technology works.

    The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company on Wednesday rolled out, with great fanfare, the Bloom box fuel cell, which is designed to be stacked into small blocks and housed in a unit about the size of a refrigerator and sold as an alternative to electricity from the grid. Multiple 100kW units, costing between $700,000 and $800,000 each, are combined and sold to large companies. Bloom already has heavyweight customers such as eBay, Wal-Mart Stores, and FedEx.

    Sridhar, in an interview with Greentech Media (see embedded video), explained some of the details of the technology not published widely in the media.

    Sridhar explained, for example, how the device creates energy. "It mixes with water, which is a byproduct of our exhaust. Water and methane goes into the system and within the system the methane and the water react," he said.


    Sridhar continued. "And you get what is called a syngas right on the surface of our fuel cell and oxygen comes from the air side of the fuel cell and mixes with CO [carbon monoxide] of the syngas to form carbon dioxide and oxygen comes across the membrane again from the air side, mixes with the H2 [hydrogen] in the syngas to form water, and both of those reactions are accompanied by electrons flowing on the outside and that's the basic reaction," he said.



    Some of the other points Sridhar explained in the Greentech Media interview, include:
    The ability of the electrodes to handle multiple fuels without the need for a switch.
    The ability of the electrodes to take the fuel without the need for an external reformer (a reformer turns fuel into hydrogen.)
    The ability to make metal plates that have the same thermal expansion throughout the temperature range so the ceramic tiles are not stressed as they heat and cool down
    And Sridhar explained why Bloom uses high temperature technology. "Chemistry says the higher the temperature the higher the efficiency; it's just fundamental thermodynamics. Why do people [rival technologies] go to lower temperature? They don't know how to handle the high temperature and they don't know how to handle the material challenges associated with the high temperature. We have figured out the material science and thermal packaging. And once you do that, you have a wide variety of fuels that you can use."
    The cost is 9 to 10 cents a kilowatt hour, which includes maintenance, installation, natural gas.

    In a related article, Greentech media editor Michael Kanellos compares Bloom's technology to solar and delves further into the economics of the Bloom box.
     
  13. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/feb/25/bloom-box-innovation

    The Bloom Box – innovation or replication?

    [​IMG]

    The long-heralded announcement of Bloom Energy's solid oxide fuel cell on February 24th generated huge amounts of excitement. Many compared the launch of the Bloom Box to the arrival of a new Apple product. Is it as innovative as the company claims?

    The technology may be good and the product reliable. The claims at the press conference were for a technology that will eventually revolutionise power production. Solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) are indeeed an extremely interesting way of generating small quantities of electricity for homes and offices at attractive running costs and low carbon emissions. Other developers, such as Ceres Power in the UK and Ceramic Fuel Cells in Australia/Germany, have products close to market launch and – so far – it is completely unclear whether Bloom's product is better or likely to be more attractively priced or more long-lasting.

    SOFCs take a hydrocarbon fuel and split at very high temperature (perhaps 600 degrees C) into hydrogen and carbon. The carbon combines with oxygen to make CO2 and the hydrogen reacts with oxygen from air to make water. This later process causes electrons to flow through the ceramic electrolyte and generate a usable current. The crucial problem is making the cell robust, cheap and durable at the high temperatures experienced in the cell.

    Ceramic Fuel Cells has numerous partnerships with large utilities around the world interested in taking its products into local markets. Its product turns about 60% of the energy value of natural gas (largely methane in the UK and Europe) into electricity, making it more efficient than all but the best combined cycle power stations. The remaining energy – residual heat – can be used to provide domestic hot water or, in theory could be used to offer space heating or energy conversion to air conditioning in summer. The carbon dioxide savings are substantial, even if grid natural gas is used. Ceramic Fuel Cells, and probably Bloom, can also use synthesis gas ('syngas') from super-heating wood in the absence of air or can even split liquid ethanol made from agricultural wastes. In theory, a SOFC can use low or zero carbon fuel and offer huge greenhouse gas savings on fossil fuel combustion. SOFCs can also be used for grid balancing. When demand is high, the grid operator will have the ability to remotely increase power output of domestic fuel cells and turn it down when the wind turbines on the hilltops are spinning fast. Ceramic Fuel Cells has successfully demonstrated this feature of its technology.

    The problems with SOFCs, probably including the Bloom Box, are well known. The fuel cells burn out and have to be replaced by professional engineers. Ceramic Fuel Cells talks of the units needed to be switched every two years though the company hopes this will improve to once every four years. The cost of the units is high. Ceramic Fuel Cells has mentioned a figure of about £2,000 ($3,000+ ) for a machine that can continuously develop 2 kilowatts of electric power but I think this number is highly optimistic and the true figure is likely to be several times this level for some years to come.

    In most circumstances, the Ceramic Fuel Cells device will also need to be supplemented by a conventional domestic heating boiler. These machines are so efficient that they do not generate enough heat to keep even a well insulated house warm. The average UK house uses a running average of about 4 kilowatts of heat during the six month heating season while the Ceramic box only provides about 0.5 kilowatts.

    The UK government's new feed-in tariffs provide a substantial incentive for householders to install SOFCs in domestic homes. Ceramic Fuel Cells has made great play of the attractiveness of this new subsidy. Provided its power plants work at even approximately the price suggested Ceramic Fuel Cells will find a ready market in the UK. The Bloom Boxes, which appear to be aimed at office buildings and go up to 100 kilowatts, will not benefit from this subsidy.

    Does the Bloom Box represent a substantial technical advance over Ceramic Fuel Cells? On the information provided so far, I could see no obvious technical innovation that puts Bloom ahead of the Ceramic Fuel Cells machines. But Ceramic Fuel Cells works from Melbourne, not Silicon Valley, and can't get the California Governor and Colin Powell to come to its product launches. We'll soon see whether the unflashy Australians have just lost their market to Bloom or whether Ceramic Fuel Cells long and painful development has just been validated by Bloom's hyperbolic endorsement of the potential of the SOFC.
     
  14. Vinod2070

    Vinod2070 मध्यस्थ Stars and Ambassadors

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    Duplicate. Threads merged.
     
  15. BloodRed

    BloodRed Regular Member

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    i hope his innovation succeeds in bringing cleaner and more efficient way of energy
     
  16. Godless-Kafir

    Godless-Kafir DFI Buddha Senior Member

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    When is this ever going to come?
     
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  17. Zebra

    Zebra Senior Member Senior Member

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