Another big alternative energy idea

Bloom Energy Servers

Recently, there has been a lot of hype around a Silicon Valley, California company called Bloom Energy. They produce something called the Bloom Energy Server which is an on-site fuel cell which can generate energy from natural gas or renewable energy sources. It is being touted as the first fuel cell technology that can be installed easily and work without much effort. It is already in its testing phase and has high aspirations for the future.

Currently the cost is around $700,000 or so, but with governments incentives that price can be cut. Obviously this price tag is higher than most homes, however Bloom Energy hopes to bring the costs down dramatically and be in every home in 5-10 years. They hope that the eventual cost will be about $3,000 per unit. It is way too early to tell if this is actually possible but, every good business starts with a hope and an idea.

This company already has some big time customers that are testing the systems out, such as Google, EBay and Wal-Mart, among others. These big names definitely help in giving this technology some “street cred” and surely help the hype machine that has been growing recently for this company. They were featured on 60 Minutes and on other news sites.

Although this is not considered a completely renewable energy like solar or wind because it uses some type of gas for power, it can use renewable energy as the fuel source making it carbon neutral. Even by using natural gas as the fuel source, it is significantly cleaner than the electricity grid we use today. Bloom Energy hopes to replace the grid we use and are looking at selling these systems to the power generators to help them increase the output in a clean and safe way.

This technology, if it actually works as hoped and can come down in price to that $3,000 mark, offers many important advantages that can really change the world. Firstly, it is a decentralized system, meaning that it does not have a main hub where the energy is produced but rather, the energy for a home or business is created by an Energy Server on-site. This makes it exponentially safer against terrorism and widespread power outages. Another big advantage is the relative ease of installation and mobility. This system can be placed anywhere that has access to natural gas or bio-fuel, a parking space sized cement pad (which can be easily made) and an internet connection.

In fact, it sounds like places like Haiti would be able to use this system to run hospitals and homes which would definitely save thousands of lives in wake of the earthquake there. It also opens new customers to Bloom Energy around the world that conventional power generation companies have not been able to reach due to the limitations of their technologies.

If the hype ends up being actualized in this technology’s emergence, it can really change the way we live by making us more environmentally friendly, safer and more uniform around the world. However, this is very early on in this technology’s life so with all the hype surrounding it right now it is very difficult to assess its actual potential. What is certain though is that Bloom Energy has more hype around it than any other alternative energy solution that is not auto industry related.