Bloom Box fuel cells: Reality or fiction?

    eBay, Wal-Mart Stores, and FedEx must know a good thing when they see it. As early, marquee customers for Sunnyvale-based Bloom Energy, they’ve bought into the concept, or at least are piloting it in hopes to find less costly, more efficient sources of electricity.

    This week the company announced the Bloom Energy Server, a power generating device that lets home and business users meet their own electricity needs with clean energy while taking them off of the power grid.

    “Bloom Energy is dedicated to making clean, reliable energy affordable for everyone in the world,” said Dr. KR Sridhar, principal co-founder and CEO of Bloom Energy. “We believe that we can have the same kind of impact on energy that the mobile phone had on communications. Just as cell phones circumvented landlines to proliferate telephony, Bloom Energy will enable the adoption of distributed power as a smarter, localized energy source. Our customers are the cornerstone of that vision and we are thrilled to be working with industry leading companies to lower their energy costs, reduce their carbon footprint, improve their energy security, and showcase their commitment to a better future.”

    One potential issue? Price.

    At $700,000 to $800,000 could make it a difficult sell. However, large businesses might have the resources, time and parking lot-sized space required to test the new technology from the startup.

    In the works for nearly a decade, the public is now starting to learn more details about the much-hyped and much-reported technology.

    A quick scan across the Internet reveals that the announcement has resulted in far more questions than it answered. That’s not surprising to me. The technology is in the always confusing and nebulous area of alternative energy. It’s a space that most of us don’t understand. What are the risks? How long will it last? How much power will it generate? Will I go bald?

    Does it really make sense to replace a centralized system that feeds power through a utility grid to one where we actually generate our own electricity from our back yard using a Bloom Energy Server.  According to Sridhar, “It’s real, it works.”

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