The Bloom Box, or Bloom's Energy Server, is a compact energy-producing unit that both generates and stores electricity. It uses clean solid oxide fuel cell technology, which has been utilized by NASA since the 1960's, but hasn't become mainstream primarily because of high costs. However, Bloom Energy has developed a lower cost technology that is practical for businesses and has the potential to be utilized in home as well.
Each Bloom Box is the size of a parking space and provides 100 kilowatts, enough energy for 100 homes or a small office building. It could be used in a development to provide power for multiple houses, but it doesn't seem practical for individual home use. However, since each fuel cell produces 25 watts, a unit the size of a loaf of bread would provide enough energy for a home. Recent studies by NASA show that solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology can currently be utilized for electricity generation in amounts as small as 100 watts, which means that it would be possible to create a product similar to the Bloom box that would be practical for the use in a single home. So there is a bright future for this energy source. It seems that in the near future technology may have advanced to provide individual homes with this source of clean energy.
The biggest problem with SOFC technology is that it operates at very high temperatures, on average at 1,830 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that the use of such technology requires a thermal shield both to retain the heat and to protect users. Bloom Energy recognizes that this creates some issues, but claims to have solved those problems that have arisen as a result. It does not, however, say how it has bypassed these engineering difficulties.
Why is this energy source so clean? Solid oxide fuel cell technology converts fuel into electricity via electro-chemical reactions, which are much cleaner than combustion reactions. While SOFCs convert only fifty to sixty percent of the fuel they consume into electricity, Bloom Energy claims that its Bloom Box is nearly twice this efficient. You do the math—that's nearly one hundred percent efficient.
Because the Bloom Box is so clean, it isn't a problem to have the unit on site—as would be the case with a coal-burning generator, for example. The fact that it generates energy at the location where it will be used means there is no loss of energy in transportation, as there is with an ordinary electric line. This saves money and energy. Also, the Bloom Box is designed to use fossil fuel or renewable fuel, such as natural gas, if it is available. So it's convenient and eco-friendly.
In conclusion, the Bloom Box is an innovative use of a clean, efficient energy source. Though not quite ready for practical use in individual homes yet, the Bloom Box could soon head in that direction.