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Fuel-Cell Power Plant Catching On Fast
Bloom Energy's fuel cell power generator offers large commercial users a new kind of independent power. Designed to use natural gas or biogas, the solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) is a lower cost alternative to other fuel cell technologies as well as conventional generators.
Bloom Chief Executive KR Sridhar suggests that a new leasing program may make access to the company's Energy Servers more affordable. This may allow the company to expand to serving groups of residential customers over the next decade.
A single Bloom Energy Server provides 100 kW of power, enough for 100 average homes. The completely integrated power plant and power delivery system is packaged in a unit the size of a standard parking space. To get more power, just add another unit. Users only need to attach a fuel source and plug the power into their internal grid.
Fuel cells produce electricity through an electrochemical process instead of combustion. SOFC fuel cells use low cost silicone instead of the precious metals required for other types of fuel cells. SOFCs operate at temperatures typically above 800üC, giving them extremely efficient energy production and fuel flexibility.
The Bloom Energy Server can also be reversed to produce hydrogen using electricity from wind generators and solar cell arrays. This gives users the option of producing and storing energy from those sources for later electricity generation.
At $800,000 each, the mini-power plants aren't cheap. Current customers include large energy users such as Walmart, Staples, Coca Cola, FedEx and others. To offset the upfront cost of purchasing a plant for smaller companies, Bloom has set up a leasing arrangement called Bloom Electrons. It lets customers lock in their electricity costs for the 10-year lease.
Leasing customers can expect to reduce energy costs by as much as 20 percent immediately and more over time as grid power costs rise. Under the plan, Bloom handles all service and maintenance, but the customer selects and secures the fuel source.
In addition to cost control, the on-site power plants offer users cleaner, more reliable power for sensitive computers and other electronic equipment.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Bloom Energy, 1299 Orleans Drive, Sunnyvale, Calif. 94089 (ph 408 543-1500; info@bloomenergy.com; www.bloomenergy.com).

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2011 - Volume #35, Issue #4