Sitting quietly in the shadows for eight years, Bloom Energy has been developing a new kind of fuel cell, one that could provide an unlimited 24/7 supply of renewable power. Today, the curtain has been pulled back and the Silicon Valley start-up has introduced the Bloom Energy Server.
The company has received $400 million in investments and such behemoths as Google, Wal-Mart, and Coca-Cola are already testing the metaphorical fuel-efficient waters.
Bloom defines its product with four distinct qualities:
1) Lower-cost materials than other "clean energy"
2) The most efficient way to convert fuel into electricity
3) Compatibility with a wide range of fuels
4) Easily deployed and maintained
The Bloom Energy Server is a comparatively compact device in a world of turbines and power plants, leading to a product nickname of "Bloom Box". Each "box" provides 100 kilowatts of power - that's enough to power 100 average US homes - with a mass no larger than a parking space. And if additional energy is ever needed, consumers can simply place a new server next to the existing one.
The servers convert air and practically any type of fuel, whether it's natural gas or a biochemical alternative, into clean electricity. And if a renewable fuel is used, there is a waste level of 0%.
The Bloom Energy Server, which seemed to have sprung up overnight for most casual observers, is capturing the imagination and fascination of the world on a nearly unparalleled level.
The UK's Independent calls it a "Martian invention" (a reference to the technology's initial purpose), The Sydney Morning Herald lauded it as the "fuel cell of the future," and Fox News' report on the invention asks, "Can this object save the world?"
A 2-minute clip of the company profiled on 60 Minutes is already one of CBS's top-10 most-watched YouTube videos of all time from its news magazine program.
"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," said Dr. KR Sridhar, Bloom Energy's CEO. "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"
The Bloom project began in 2001 under the assignment of providing energy solutions to Mars. Sridhar took the technology and, eight years later, scaled and evolved it to make it fit for Earth.
With such high-profile clients already in its bag, Bloom is not a concept, but a reality. In a New York Times article, Bloom board member John Doerr said the only remaining hurdles "are scale and cost. We’ve got to make a lot of these systems reliably, and that’s hard work."