Bloom -- the Martian invention that could revolutionize Earth

A Silicon Valley firm has unveiled a device that it says could revolutionize the way that we produce and consume electricity.

The Bloom Energy Server, publicly shown for the first time on February 24, mixes gas and air to produce electricity via a clean chemical reaction. Originally developed to provide power on Mars, the invention could soon be powering our homes, dramatically reducing our reliance on the fossil-fuel powered electricity grid for energy.

Bloom Energy, the company behind the invention, unveiled the mini power plant for corporate customers on February 24, assisted by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former US Secretary of State Colin Powell. Each box produces 100 kilowatts (kW) of power, enough to meet the needs of approximately 100 average U.S. homes or a small office building. Uniquely, it does not connect to the electricity grid, providing electricity creation and storage independently.

The scientists behind the project hope that a pint sized version of the Bloom Energy Server could soon make its way into the home. At its launch, Bloom Energy boss Dr. KR Sridhar showed a brick sized device that he claimed could power a house. The firm reportedly aims to make these available for less than $3,000 (€2213), although Sridhar warned that domestic applications such as powering electric vehicles and mixing with solar energy could take another ten years.

"Bloom Energy is dedicated to making clean, reliable energy affordable for everyone in the world," said Sridhar. "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."

The new technology represents a significant evolution from existing fuel cell applications, which have traditionally been expensive to produce and difficult to run. It uses low cost components and can run on a wide range of fuel, including both natural gas and biogas produced from landfill waste. When running on fossil fuel, the system is approximately 67% cleaner than a typical coal-fired power plant. Running on biofuel, Bloom's solution is emission free.

Bloom says that the boxes it has been trialling with customers - including Coca Cola, eBay; Google and Walmart - have already produced more than 11 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity, with CO2 reductions estimated at 14 million pounds. This is, according to the company, the equivalent of powering approximately 1,000 American homes for a year and planting one million trees.


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