Making clean-burning generators is a blossoming business for Bloom Energy. The company invented the first power generator that uses solid-oxide fuel cells, which convert natural gas or renewable fuels such as biogas into electricity without any pollution-causing combustion. The Bloom Energy Server, known as the Bloom Box, contains ceramic wafers made of a "sand-like powder" instead of more expensive materials like acid or molten carbonate. Each Bloom Box is the size of a parking spot, weighs about 20,000 pounds, and costs $800,000. The servers provide 200kW of power, enough for 160 average homes or an office building. It produces power for such customers as Apple,
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The company serves different industry sectors, including retail and logistics, technology, banking, real estate, financial services, manufacturing, food and beverage, and utilities. Also, with its Mission Critical Systems practice, Bloom Energy provides grid-independent power for critical loads in data centers and manufacturing plants.
The first Bloom Boxes were used as backup generators in lieu of the traditional diesel-burning backup generators. Ideally, the company aims to market a smaller generator to residential customers for about $3,000, but that technology could take as long as 10 years to develop. The current-size Bloom Boxes can power about 160 homes.
Bloom Energy came about in 2001, when KR Sridhar, a
scientist, set up shop at the
NASA Ames Research Center
in Silicon Valley to develop a marketable product. Initially called Ion America, the company secured funding from
and spent about $400 million to develop the Bloom Box.