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Bloom Energy - Poweplant in your Basement / Garage

Discussion in 'Serious' started by GreatOldOne, 24 Feb 2010.

  1. GreatOldOne

    GreatOldOne Wannabe Martian

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    I've been seeing a lot about this online, and it's reaching a creshendo at the moment as there's to be an online unveiling of the tech today. Apparently it was shown on 60 minutes in the US at the begining of the week.

    From what I can gather, it's a fuel cell based power unit, 1 or 2 of which could power an individual dwelling. Apparently it supposed to be 'miraculous', and isn't just a paper concept - Google have been using them for the past year or so to power one of their datacentres!

    The thing is, what is so miraculous about it? It needs a fuel source to run - so whilst some people are saying that it's a way to rid yourself of the power grid, if you need gas to run it, you'll still require hooking up to the mains... Unless you have a delivery of calor gas or whatever else it can run off (Bio-gas? Hydrogen?)

    Is it super-effiecient? It looks small, to be sure from grabs fromt he 60min piece I've seen.

    I suppose you lose the ineffinciencies of power transmission.


    Here's some links:

    http://dealbook.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/24/bloom-energy-claims-a-new-fuel-cell-technology/
    http://blogs.ft.com/energy-source/2010/02/24/a-lot-of-guesswork-about-bloom-energys-fuel-cells/
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/maggieshiels/2010/02/valley_buzz_energy_nirvana_twe.html
     
  2. Zoon

    Zoon Hunting Wabbits since the 80s

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    Yeah I guess that ultimately a fuel cell still needs fuel to run - so what the heck does it burn eh?
     
  3. Byron C

    Byron C And now a word from our sponsor

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    I've read those links, and have to say that I remain dubious; there's the economy of scale to think about. One can already put solar cells on the roof as an electricity source, but as a source of power it's not very cost effective. The cost of these devices would have to so low as to make a return on the initial outlay very quickly - solar power hasn't been able to get past this hurdle yet. That would be the deal-breaker when it comes to powering your house from one.

    You hit upon a key point there, and another reason why we aren't already using fuel cells: they still need another fuel source - you're just shifting your dependency away from the national grid to dependency on other fuel sources. Hydrogen might be the most abundant element in the universe, but the kind of hydrogen required by hydrogen fuel cells is still very costly to produce.

    Even if they are super-efficient, I still think it's barking up the wrong tree when we're talking about large-scale power distribution. Nuclear power is already a proven technology with minimal (if any) emissions. There is the question around disposal of waste, but we don't tend to throw nuclear waste in the air; coal-fired power plants however, do throw their waste into the air... This isn't to say that we shouldn't research/pursue alternatives, or that nuclear is the only answer, but we could spend a lot more time and effort in replacing coal-based power plants with existing clean technology (clean in terms of emissions).


    EDIT: I've just realised that I come across as quite negative... This isn't to say that it is not interesting technology or not worthy of further research/investment; I just don't think it's the answer to Joe Public's home power supply.

    Plus, I am always dubious when private companies claim technological/scientific revolutions in this area. Long experience has shown the scientific community that so-called "breakthroughs" or "free energy", etc, usually don't pan out the way they claim - if the products or proof of concept even materialises at all. Many of these announcements turn out to be unsustainable, not suitalby scalable, not cost effective, based on bad science, or plain old utter fiction.
     
    Last edited: 24 Feb 2010
  4. steveo_mcg

    steveo_mcg New Member

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    It runs on gas from what i've read so if you have access to animal methane your quids in though for the rest of us its probably not so low carbon or the best idea for energy security since we are about to become a very large importer of natural gas.

    Having said that a very large proportion of the power in the UK is already generated using gas power plants so by moving that burning of gas to a more efficient fuel cell and by moving the supply much closer to the demand then you could conceivably save a fair amount of energy thus gas and money.

    I wonder what the payback time for it would be?
     
  5. Flibblebot

    Flibblebot Smile with me

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    But - if you believe the articles - Bloom has products already working in the field, at Google, eBay, FedEx, WalMart. What we don't know is how reliable or how efficient those units are - although the CEO did allude to some problems he'd had with the unit at Google.

    Again - if you believe what the CEO was saying - a stack about the size of a Rubik's cube or two is enough to power a European home, although nothing was said about the consumption of gas to power that unit.

    I don't understand how there's no emissions, though - if you're pumping methane (from whatever source) into the unit, what happens to that methane? The articles say that there's a "chemical reaction" with oxygen, so surely you get CO2? And what happens to that CO2 - does that not count as an emission? Perhaps someone more knowledgeable than me can explain?
     
  6. MacWalka

    MacWalka New Member

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    The only way I can think that there are no emissions is if the gas does not combust to form CO2 and Water and perhaps undergoes a different reaction. I can't think what though, perhaps it is oxidised into an alcohol? But they are generally an endothermic reaction and don't provide power.

    Even if it doesn't go down the conventional combustion route, there will still be some sort of product at the end that will probably need to be disposed of in some way. I'm sceptical to be honest until I can see HOW it works rather than someone just saying "it works".
     
  7. Ryu_ookami

    Ryu_ookami I write therefore I suffer.

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    Lets get this right its going to power my house and make me alcohol, hell teach it to make a chip butty and a cup of tea and I can get rid of the GF
     
  8. DXR_13KE

    DXR_13KE BananaModder

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    This sounds like BS to me...
     
  9. GreatOldOne

    GreatOldOne Wannabe Martian

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    http://www.bloomenergy.com/

    Certainly doesn't look like BS to me... And they're big names on the customer page.

    The energy 'server' is a might bigger than I've read, but 100Kw output could run a small estate...
     
  10. ch424

    ch424 Design Warrior

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    Obvious BS snake oil.
     
  11. DXR_13KE

    DXR_13KE BananaModder

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    so do these guys:

    http://www.hyperionpowergeneration.com/

    edit: the device weighs 10 Tons...

    edit2: and it's 5.6m long....
     
    Last edited: 24 Feb 2010
  12. ch424

    ch424 Design Warrior

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    Just to clarify why this is obviously snake oil:

    They claim their system produces 100kW at ~50% efficiency.
    That means that if it must be dumping 100kW into itself or a cooling system.
    A cooling system to dissipate 100kW would be huge.
    In their photos and diagrams, there's no sign of any radiators, fans, grills, heat exchangers, or anything to perform cooling.

    It's all a scam to grab money. Anyone can make a website, stick other peoples' logos on it and make up quotes from VC companies.
     
  13. DXR_13KE

    DXR_13KE BananaModder

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    It's no only that... lots of other details are weird... it consumes natural gas? Then why the hell is the CO2 level so low? How the hell is it reversible?
     
  14. FuzzyOne

    FuzzyOne

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    You do realise eBay have been powering there HQ for the past year on one of these things?

    http://www.engadget.com/2010/02/24/live-from-the-bloom-box-press-event/
     
  15. ch424

    ch424 Design Warrior

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    [citation needed]
     
  16. pdf27

    pdf27 New Member

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    Ceres power do something similar - a couple of kW electrical and enough heat for a house, and they've got a contract with British Gas to start selling them as soon as they go into production over the next year or so. Basically it oxidises Methane to CO2 without burning, which means you don't get Carnot efficiency limitations. That means that for the same amount of heat the fuel burn is roughly the same, but you get the electricity essentially for free.
     
  17. xrain

    xrain Member

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    It seems relatively legitimate to me.

    People like fuel cells because it's able to go from fuel to energy in only one energy state change.

    Fuel---> Electricity

    Most current solutions involving the use of fuel require 2 energy state changes, first it converts the stored fuel energy to mechanical energy, then from mechanical energy to electrical energy.

    Fuel ---> Mechanical Energy ---> Electrical energy

    Since each change in energy state, has a limited efficency, the less you have the more efficient you are.



    I have a love hate relationship with nuclear energy at the moment. I like nuclear energy, because its able to produce vast amounts of power with relatively little waste. But I don't like nuclear energy at the moment because of how horrendously inefficient the process is.

    The main problem is, that we don't even react all the fuel, in fact we only are able to use about 10% of the fuel before the rest builds up so much radioactivity that it becomes unusable. So right off the bat, 90% of the energy we could have used is off to be buried in some old abandoned salt mine.

    Its like using a gallon of fuel, then pouring 9 gallons into the ground because it got too hot.


    The bloom platform looks quite promising to me if it actually delivers as promised.

    I can understand the 10 ton wieght, since its basically 224" x 84" x 81" ceramic brick.

    Fuel cells are reversible, because if you put electricity into the anode and cathode, the fuel cell will break down the water to make H2, and O2


    This system could be quite promising for Alaska seeming a large portion of out electricity is produced by natural gas.

    The distributed power holds an even greater attraction, this is because up here, most cities and towns are not connected to a larger grid. My current city for example, contains the worlds largest battery to power a portion of the city in the event of a failure in the cities main power plant.


    Although personally I'd rather the money go to developing the states hydroelectric and geothermal energy, instead of relying on natural gas. Although natural gas is still a heck of a lot better than burning coal.

    P.S.
    100 kw should supply power to about 25-30 houses, since the average house only uses about 5 kw at most, with an average consumption of about 2-3 kw.
     
    Last edited: 25 Feb 2010
  18. GreatOldOne

    GreatOldOne Wannabe Martian

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    Did you read the engadget live stream?

    Colin Powell
    The Governator
    John Donaho - eBay
    Bill Simon - Walmart
    Brian Kelly - Coca-Cola,
    Google - Larry Page

    That's some big names there.

    What about The 60minutes piece?

    Looks legit to me. It's not like the guy is wearing a straw boater and is trying to sell us a monorail. ;)
     
  19. DXR_13KE

    DXR_13KE BananaModder

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    IIRC 60 minutes made a piece on this:



    As for those big companies.... tell me that they never made a bad investment.

    Anyway, i will wait for independent studies on this device and then make my mind up, for now i look at this as if it was a fuel cell like any other fuel cell, only this one uses ceramic plates instead of platinum and other expensive stuff.

    The part that confuses me more is when they say it is reversible...
     
  20. xrain

    xrain Member

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    Fuel to energy reactions:
    Natural Gas + Fuel cell = Electricity + H20 + C02
    Hydrogen gas + Oxygen + Fuel Cell = Electricity + H20

    OR
    Energy to Fuel Reactions:

    Electricity + Fuel Cell + H2O= Hydrogen gas + Oxygen

    They probably don't mean that the system will produce natural gas if you put electricity into it, but it will produce another fuel, hydrogen.


    You can have it produce Electricity from a fuel

    OR

    You can have it produce a fuel from electricity.

    Thus that makes it REVERSIBLE :sigh:
     

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