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Thursday, February 25, 2010

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Bloom or bust for Desi’s green power tech

Chidanand Rajghatta I TNN

Washington: Hot air or cool energy? Hope or hype? Boom or bust? Hours before the official launch of a compact, new power plant-in-a-box that promises to change the world’s energy paradigm, speculation is rife over whether the Bloom Box will live up to its billing.
Bloom Energy’s principal scientist-CEO K R Sridhar has been incommunicado for the last 72 hours since CBS’ 60 minutes first broadcast a story about his breakthrough technology, but experts and analysts, bloggers and twitterati, geeks and gearheads, have taken apart the little information
now in public domain to see if the promise of the holy grail of energy — cheap, clean power — is true. There are questions and doubts aplenty, most notably about the costs, and Bloom Energy has promised to answer them at the formal launch at its client eBay’s headquarters in Silicon Valley on Wednesday. But even Bloom buffs are warning against over-expectation, suggesting it is still a work in progress.
This is because fuel cell technology is not new — it has been around for decades — and no company had managed to scale down the costs and scale up production to make it viable. Conspiracy the
orists are already suggesting the Bloom hype is aimed at selling
the technology to the biggies.
Such is the excitement over the technology that even sceptics are willing it to succeed. “I’m sceptical. I’m hopeful but I’m sceptical,” Michael Kanellos, Editor of GreenTechEnergy, told 60 Minutes. Sridhar reckons it will be another five to ten years before the Bloom Box can be sized to residential requirements to cost around $ 3000. But that’s just the capital cost and doesn’t factor in the fuel input. By then, says Kanellos, giants like GE and Siemens will be in on to the game. Some other sceptics have been even harsher. One skeptic scoffed at the Bloom Box claims, asking if it could run on pixie dust and unicorn droppings.
Sceptics corner
There are questions and doubts, most notably about the costs
Fuel cell technology has been around for decades and no company had managed to scale down the costs and scale up production to make it viable
The unknown factors include how much fuel the Bloom Box uses, wear and tear, and maintenances


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