Those two blocks can power the average high-consumption American home -- one block can power the average European home. At least that's the claim being made by K.R. Sridhar, founder of Bloom Energy, on 60 Minutes last night. The original technology comes from an oxygen generator meant for a scrapped NASA Mars program that's been converted, with the help of an estimated $400 million in private funding, into a fuel cell. Bloom's design feeds oxygen into one side of a cell while fuel (natural gas, bio gas from landfill waste, solar, etc) is supplied to the other side to provide the chemical reaction required for power. The cells themselves are inexpensive ceramic disks painted with a secret green "ink" on one side and a black "ink" on the other. The disks are separated by a cheap metal alloy, instead of more precious metals like platinum, and stacked into a cube of varying capabilities -- a stack of 64 can power a small business like Starbucks.

Now get this, skeptics: there are already several corporate customers using refrigerator-sized Bloom Boxes. The corporate-sized cells cost $700,000 to $800,000 and are installed at 20 customers you've already heard of including FedEx and Wal-mart -- Google was first to this green energy party, using its Bloom Boxes to power a data center for the last 18 months. Ebay has installed its boxes on the front lawn of its San Jose location. It estimates to receive almost 15% of its energy needs from Bloom, saving about $100,000 since installing its five boxes 9 months ago -- an estimate we assume doesn't factor in the millions Ebay paid for the boxes themselves. Bloom makes about one box a day at the moment and believes that within 5 to 10 years it can drive down the cost to about $3,000 to make it suitable for home use. Sounds awfully aggressive to us. Nevertheless, Bloom Energy will go public with details on Wednesday -- until then, check the 60 Minutes sneak peek after the break.

[Thanks, Abe P.]


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The Bloom Box: a power plant for the home (video)