India-born scientist-CEO of Bloom Energy, K.R.Sridhar 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.
”Bloom box”, a unique ”power-plant-in-a-box,” scheduled for a big-splash unveiling in Silicon Valley on Wednesday, could be the Holy Grail of the world’s energy quest. California’s governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will be at the launch, which is to take place on the eBay campus.
It is already being done on the campuses of Google and eBay among others. eBay said it has already saved $100,000 in electricity costs since its 5 Bloom 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.
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. Venture capitalist Kleiner Perkins bankrolled Bloom Energy.
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 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.
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 throughout the year.
Dr K.R. Sridhar, 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.
by Deen Kumar