There’s much hype around the 60 Minutes segment Sunday night about Bloom Energy and its miraculous Bloom Box. I’m scratching my head wondering why this is such a big deal, so maybe someone can enlighten me. This to me seems like a fancy solid-oxide fuel cell system. It’s still super expensive, though Bloom claims that it can get the cost down to $3,000 (U.S.) for a residential unit. It still relies on fuel, such as natural gas, meaning it still produces CO2 emissions. Yes, far less emissions than burning that natural gas in a power plant and sending it via transmission lines to your home, but it’s not the emission-free miracle that 60 Minutes is touting. I didn’t hear much talk on the segment about whether the Bloom Box has a dual purpose: that is, electricity generation and heat production. And while it may replace the need for electricity lines coming into your home, you still need a natural gas line. In this sense, I can see tremendous interest from natural gas utilities looking to compete against electric utilities (a good parallel is how cable and phone companies over the years ended up offering the same services as technologies converged).
Perhaps there’s more to this story that wasn’t revealed by 60 Minutes, but there are many companies out there working on this kind of fuel cell so I don’t see what’s particularly special or unique about Bloom Energy. More details are expected to be released on Wednesday, however, so maybe then my questions will be answered.
In the meantime, would someone out there please enlighten me?