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Bloom Box: family fuel cells

The media are full of stories about the Bloom Boxes, small fridge-sized power plants that use fuel cells and that should replace the grid. They will be presented by the Silicon Valley start-up company to the public on Wednesday.

Businesses such as Google, eBay, Wal-Mart, and others have invested their money to become the first consumers. The business-sized gadgets cost nearly one million dollars. But the company claims to be able to produce USD 3,000 devices for your garage in the near future. It's likely that the first consumers have lost money for their investment. On the other hand, if they could make it for USD 3,000, that would surely be interesting even for you.

It's a fuel cell. Oxygen is inserted into one input, any stuff to the other hole, and the device combines the hydrogen from the fuel with the oxygen from the other side, producing water and nothing else, assuming I understand that it's just another solid oxide fuel cell. It's clean, blah blah blah. These gadgets have had lots of disadvantages - see the Wikipedia page - but it is clear that they can be improved relatively to what they are today. An open question is whether the improvements will ever be enough for this technology to beat its competitors.

It's just another example showing that there will surely never be any big energy crisis and it makes no sense to subsidize these things. Sometime in the future, these and similar technologies will surely become economically feasible. It will be the case because of a combination of two things: the technologies may get better and cheaper; and the fuels for the old technologies may get more expensive.

There's no reason to speed these things up. If very different kinds of energy start to spread in 30 or 80 years, instead of the year 2010, it will simply and obviously cause no problems whatsoever. Many politicians should start to realize that there's no reason to distort the energy markets. They should realize that there are tens of millions of voters who realize that subsidies and similar things are simply counterproductive in this potentially hugely profitable sector of the economy.

It's just too bad that so many politicians think that they will be applauded for their interventions into the energy industry and for their wasteful policies.


Sadly, their promotional video is nothing else than a superficial, emotional, environmentalist P.R.

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reader Brian G Valentine said...

SOFC reform hydrocarbon like methane to CO and hydrogen which are oxidized to CO2 and water at the anode, so the product is nothing but "water" if the fuel is nothing but "hydrogen" which is supplied, in today's market exclusively from methane (at an energy loss of at least 250%).

The touted "advantage" of these are their efficiencies, which average around 50% at load when new, rapidly deteriorating to about 40% in a matter of months, they are nowhere near as reliable as simple diesel generation, with efficiencies around 35% at load, they are three times as expensive (strip away the Government "incentive"), my guess is that they are right now 4 times as expensive over 10 years than diesel and about twice that of gas turbine (depending on capacity and use), and this is the way of the world for every last bit of "green" goop out there

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