Bloom Energy has announced it’s highly anticipated “Bloom Box,” an alternative energy device that the company hopes will revolutionize the way we synthesize energy and fuel. How likely is it that these will someday become a household item?

The Price Per Kilowatt

The Bloom Energy product launch placed the cost of each unit, officially called Energy Servers, which is about the size of a small SUV and provides 100 kilowatts, at $700,000 to $800,000. While that seems like a huge initial cost, for large businesses the investment could pay off, if the boxes prove to be as efficient as its CEO K.R. Sridhar says. Consumer use is probably still a few years off, but if they are adopted by local power companies, this product could result in a huge decrease in homeowners energy bills.

Bloom Energy

But is it really as cost effective as the hype would have us believe? For the large companies who have been picked to receive the first shipments of the boxes, such as FedEx, Google and Wal-Mart, multiple boxes will be required, or some combination of boxes, solar and energy off of the traditional energy grid.

Running the Numbers

Recent estimates of the average cost of energy from the national, coal-powered grid are approximately 10 cents per kilowatt-hour.  Going by estimates on Bloom Energy’s website, a single Energy Server could power 100 average homes a year. Assuming that residential energy consumption is about 11,000 kw/h per year, it would take about 7 or 8 years of using the Bloom Box before you started seeing a significant return on your investment…even if you could find 99 neighbors who wanted to go in on one with you.  However, this does not factor in the cost of the fuel that is necessary to power the Energy Server, or the large subsidies that are being provided by the federal and state governments to use these types of alternative, clean energies.

So far, companies that have implemented the Bloom Energy Servers have remained quiet, and the $3,000 home version is still ten years out, according to the Financial Times. However, whether or not these “Bloom Boxes” will carry financial benefits as well as the environmental one, still remains to be seen.

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  • Russell

    From what I read, these devices are not necessarily that “green,” either, i.e. they may produce as much or more CO2 as natural gas fired utility plants. Coal fired plants are another story. But it points out the 800 lb gorilla in the room: one of the quickest ways to meaningfully reduce our nation's carbon footprint would be to convert coal fired electrical plants to natural gas. And what do we hear from our “Change agent” in the White House? “Clean” coal, i.e. politics – business as usual.

  • Andrew

    clean coal is a viable alternative. coal burned in the U.S. to provide power is as dirty as the coal burned by China, yet Canada's coal power is nearly as clean as natural gas. You can't expect an entire country's power infrastructure to change overnight, so converting to clean burning coal plants is a good option for the U.S. Maybe not the best option, but a step in the right direction none the less.

  • Engnrng

    Using natural gas is an alternative energy source? All reporters of technical subjects should at least be required to have an elementary school understanding of physics! Although, consider the source of the article. This is a banking website…

  • neili

    The Bloom Energy Server is emission free you could have it in your house. If you were to place Bloom Energy Servers beside a Waste to fuel plant like Enerkem in Edmonton, Alberta you would be Carbon neutral. When you use natural gas there are emissions in producing the fuel there for you cant be emission free. When using renewable fuels from a waste treatment center Etc. you are emssion free or Carbon neutral.

  • neili

    The Bloom Energy Server is emission free you could have it in your house. If you were to place Bloom Energy Servers beside a Waste to fuel plant like Enerkem in Edmonton, Alberta you would be Carbon neutral. When you use natural gas there are emissions in producing the fuel there for you cant be emission free. When using renewable fuels from a waste treatment center Etc. you are emssion free or Carbon neutral.