How does Bloom Box Energy Server work?
The use of fuel cells is becoming a trend around the world. Unfortunately, the technology is still quite expensive and affordable only for large companies. In the future, in 5–10 years, it is quite possible that such elements will begin to appear in many in the country.
A Bloom Box Energy Server installation consists of fuel cells, or electrochemical cells. One fuel cell consists of an anode, a cathode, and an electrolyte between them. Fuel comes from the anode side, oxidizer from the cathode side, and a reaction occurs that causes the electrons to move in the fuel cell circuit, producing electricity.
- Bloom Box Energy Server is not really a server: such a name is just a PR move. This is actually a modular generator set. Each “server” generates 100 kW of power and consists of thousands of fuel cells. Bloom Box costs 700-800 thousand dollars, with the cost of electricity 8-9 cents per kWh, it pays for itself in three to five years.
- There are many different types of fuel cells. The most popular of these are methanol and hydrogen fuel cells, as well as zinc-air batteries. The Bloom Box Energy Server consists of solid oxide fuel cells whose attractiveness is that they can be made from low-cost materials and have high efficiency.
- Fuel cells can run on a variety of fuels, including traditional fuels, natural gas, biogas and ethanol.
- So far, technical problems have stopped the commercial use of solid oxide fuel cells, but Bloom’s elements (“sand” baked into ceramic square elements coated with green and black inks) supposedly managed to overcome most of the problems. Bloom's website has a great presentation that shows how solid oxide fuel cells work.
- One of the biggest problems associated with the use of solid oxide fuel cells is that their operation requires a very high temperature (ceramic squares become active only at temperatures up to 1000 ° C). This means that Bloom Energy has yet to prove its reliability. Already, the company had to replace the elements in the eBay data center, which worked on them for only seven months, while in August the company announced plans to switch completely to these fuel cells in its newly built data center in Utah (USA). In general, Bloom expects that its fuel cell batteries should only be turned off twice during the 10-year life of the devices.
- Bloom Box Energy Server generates electricity with an efficiency of 50 - 55%. For comparison: solar panels produce power with an efficiency of 10 - 15%, but unlike solar panels, the Bloom Energy server produces CO2 as a by-product. According to information on The Energy Collective’s website, “CO2 emissions from natural gas will be no more than 0.36 kilograms per kilowatt-hour of electricity.” This compares favorably with the electricity generated at a coal-fired power plant — 0.9 kilograms per kilowatt-hour of electricity, and at a natural gas-fired power plant — about 0.3kilograms per kilowatt hour of electricity. CO2 emissions on average over the electricity grid are 0.6–0.7 kilograms per kilowatt hour of electricity. If the Bloom Box runs on landfill gas or biogas, it produces clean emissions with zero carbon levels.
- In the end, Bloom hopes that a smaller version of the device can be used in private homes. Bloom Box for a residential building will produce 1 kW of power and will cost about $ 3,000. But, probably, this will happen no earlier than in 10 years.
The largest operators of data centers became one of the first who tried and began to actively implement this technology. So, most recently, Microsoft announced its desire to reduce, and in the future, abandon the use of diesel generator sets in favor of alternative backup power sources. AT&T last week announced an increase in the use of Bloom Box , Apple announced the transfer of one of its data centers to fully renewable energy sources, of which about 60% will be in fuel cells. And such messages appear more and more.
We hope that soon the first data centers and communication operators will appear in Russia who will use this technology, and in the near future we will put them in our cottage.