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Bloom Energy By the Numbers

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With the official launch of fuel cell maker Bloom Energy on Wednesday I’m not any more sure if the company can actually deliver on some of its claims, though it has a lot of well-known customers like Google (s GOOG) and eBay (s EBAY) saying it’s delivered on its promises. But the 8-year-old company, which has raised close to $400 million to get it where it is today, put out some new numbers at the event this morning that can help naysers and fans alike figure out what Bloom hopes to achieve. Here’s some of the figures that Bloom Energy is putting out there:

100KW: The Bloom Energy Server (aka the Bloom Box) provides 100 kilowatts (kW) of electricity.

Payback: Bloom Energy founder KR Sridhar says that the payback on investment for their customers is 3 to 5 years in energy cost savings. Sridhar confirmed to me that the 3 to 5 year claimed payback is with the California and federal subsidy, and Sridhar refused to comment on what the payback would be without the subsidy. Since the subsidy is half the cost of the device, I think its safe to say that a payback without the subsidies would be at least double that. The Oil Drum puts the ROI at 15 years. (Some of our commenters put it at more).

Cost of the 100KW Box: Between $700,000 to $800,000. So $7,000 to $8,000 per kW.

What Fuel Cells Need to Be: As Alexis Madrigal puts it over on Wired the Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance predicts that fuel cells will need to cost $700 per kw to compete with the grid. (see Bloom’s 10x’s price above at $7,000 per kW).

Price per kWh with subsidies: Bloom’s Stu Aaron tells Lux Research the cost of electricity over a Bloom server’s 10-year life is: “$0.08/kWh to $0.10/kWh (when running as base-load for 24 hours a day), including government incentives and assuming a $7/mmBTU natural gas long-term contract.”

Price per kWh without subsidies: Lux writes that: “Without incentives, we calculate electricity would cost $0.13/kWh to $0.14/kWh, with about $0.09/kWh from system cost and about $0.05/kWh coming from fuel cost. Note that this is high compared to average retail U.S. electricity costs of roughly $0.11/kWh.”

The subsidy: A 30 percent federal government tax credit and a $2,500 per kilowatt California subsidy for fuel cells. All of the Bloom customers that spoke on the panel today had installed Bloom boxes in California.

Bloom Looking to Cut Costs: NEA Partner and Bloom Energy investor Scott Sandell says that he thinks Bloom can cut the costs of its fuel cell by between 60 to 70 percent over the next several years. Here’s how. He said that the costs of the fuel cell have already come down by 25 times since he invested in the company in 2005.

Carbon reduction: Bloom says that customers can get between a 40 and 100 percent reduction in their carbon footprint as compared with the U.S. grid, depending on if they are using natural gas or renewable methane. Michael Kanellos of GreentechMedia asked Sridhar during the Q&A session for the math on for 1 ton of CO2 emitted how much fuel would be used, and Sridhar didn’t provide an answer.

Warranty: Bloom offers a 10 year warranty on its servers.

Funding: Bloom Energy has raised $400 million.

18 Responses to “Bloom Energy By the Numbers”

  1. Inder Dev

    What will be the cost of running a bloom box for one unit in India. Whether it is available in India If not in how many years it would be available to the world.

  2. First Solar says they can build a One Gig PV plant in the US for $2.50/peak watt and $2.50 is really low compared to other estimates I’ve see for large distributed installations. The capital costs for the Bloom Box are $7.50 (unsubsidized) /watt. One 24/7 watt from the fuel cell is something like 5 peak watts from the PV in California, so shouldn’t we be comparing $1.50 for the fuel cell vs $2.50 for the PV for the capital costs?

  3. bet happy watts works for an electric company. that is what you can expect from the ones in power now..I say bring it on time for high electric bills grids that go down in snow and ice to go away.

  4. happywatts

    What they don’t also factor in are the maintenance and replacement costs involved. These must be huge, as you have to maintain the machine every year, and replace the disks every 2-3 years. In short, it’s a great green job creator, but it’s still too expensive to the end user.

  5. I think that its great to have a “box” that will help us save energy but what I don’t have the warm fuzzies about is the fact that this device still primarily uses natural gas in it’s process. Now, running the box on methane is a different story. Imagine an organic process that uses human waste and organic garbage to produce methane for your home. Methane that could be used for heat or by the Bloom Box to produce electricity.

    • Natural Gas is methane. The composition of Natural Gas is about 94% CH4 and 3% C2H6 (ethane) with trace amounts of propane, butane and some other things like Mercaptan — the sulfur based compound they use to make natural gas smellable

      What I think you’re getting at is biogas derived Methane. There are plenty of outfits working on biosolid gasification (Nexterra, out of BC, Canada, is one of the frontrunners) Its good technology and there are a handful of wastewater treatment plants around the country who are already implementing (or in the advanced stages of exploring) biosolid gasification projects. The thing that’s tricky with biogas is that it typically has a low-BTU content compared to natural gas (like around 40-50% of the energy content) so you have to clean it up and have a sizeable feedstock of biosolids to make it work.