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Fuel Cells

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
Not really renewable but don't know where else to fit this in.

The past few days there has been a lot written about the Bloom Box fuel cell and how wonderful it is. The articles and TV interview seem to have been uniformly done by non-technical types which probably serves Blooms purpose just fine. A couple of quotes from more technical types:

From a very interested party (a VC with money in the pot) -
“It’s a disruptive technology,” said John Doerr, a prominent venture capitalist who helped finance Bloom and sits on its board. “It works, so the hurdles are scale and cost. We’ve got to make a lot of these systems reliably, and that’s hard work.” My comment - There are thousands of technologies that could make the same claim. 

From İEEE Spectrum - 
If SOFC's haven't taken off it's because they produce power at higher cost than the grid, and there's no evidence that the Bloom Box will fix that. 

From someone who most likely knows - 
Some fuel cell experts have been blistering in their criticism of Bloom and its hypers. "I'm actually pretty pissed off about it, to be quite honest," is how Nigel Sammes, an SOFC expert at the Colorado School of Mines, expressed his emotions on the Bloom Box to National Geographic. "It really is nothing new. Go to any [SOFC] Web site and you'll see the same stuff."

The only thing technical on the web page for the Bloom Box is a technical description from the Colorado School of Mines. You would think that if they really had something they could at least make their own technical material and not use a generic writeup from a university.

İ believe they are in need of more funding! 

post #2 of 9
I don't really understand the hype.  The Bloom Box uses fossil fuels (suppsedly most likely methane), so it's not like it's some great zero carbon energy source.  The benefits are that it's supposedly very efficient and relative to other SOFCs, cheap.  Of course they haven't actually demonstrated that it's either highly efficient or cheap, and won't be in production for 5-10 years.  So I'm not seeing the big deal either.
post #3 of 9
There's something to be said for small power plants that are easy to distribute around. Having the power plant closer to the site where energy gets used is more efficient. A lot of energy is lost in transmission over long power lines. This is one of the cases for micronuclear. And traditionally, size can relate to efficiency - bigger plants have some benefits of scale. So a lot of our grid is made up of giant plants with long lines to the end customers. It could soften a few corners to distribute more of that.

Just some thoughts off the top of my head though. 
post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 
Generally in power generation, bigger is more efficient. A 30 mW GE gas turbine combined cycle plant is less efficient in gas consumption than a 105 mW GE turbine with combined cycle.

Cleanup and control of exhaust gases is definitely cheaper, easier and more complete on a larger scale. This is especially important with coal. Also it is easier to monitor 100 sites than 1000 sites.

The infrastructure supporting a larger plant is always more cost effective than what is required for the smaller plant.

Grid losses are between 5 and 10% depending on the grid load at the time. Grids will always be required to be able to move power around as needed to balance loads or cover for down time.

All in all, the grid and larger installations are more effective both on economics and on the environment.

We will see more about the micronuclear plants as time goes on and they come into service (if it actually happens). 
post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 
A follow up on the Bloom box by National Geographic with more references.   http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/02/100224-bloom-box-launch-bloom-energy-press-conference-update/

Bloom Box Launch Is "Big Hype"--Invention Nothing New?

How Bloom Energy's mini, green power plant works—and why its press conference today had some experts seeing red, or just plain underwhelmed.










Nothing all that different in the article but it is a nice compilation of quotes from various parties. Bloom throws out a red herring about some new tech that they have patents for but it is certainly not included in this generation of fuel cells. What they have is an expensive little thing. The costs they provide are very well cooked to try to make them look attractive.

İ still think they are fishing for investors.
post #6 of 9
Whatever the tech - they certainly nailed the PR of their unveiling. How the heck do you get a product intro onto 60 minutes? 
post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 
@ahilal - Right - they certainly hit the PR button hard but that is what you can do with the deep pockets of the VC bunch.

For a decent comparison uvdiv blogspot has a great post that points out the whole thing was nothing more than PR garbage with Doerr apparently looking to 'pump' a little bit. The link shows a comparison between a combined cycle gas turbine and the Boom Box. 

http://uvdiv.blogspot.com/2010/02/fuel-cell-hype.html
 
post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 
From the green blog NY Times yesterday

In a preliminary decision, an administrative law judge with the California Public Utilities Commission found unwarranted an application from Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California to spend more than $43 million to install fuel cells that would generate six megawatts of electricity.

“It is unreasonable to spend three times the price paid to renewable generation for the proposed Fuel Cell Projects, which are nonrenewable and fueled by natural gas,” wrote the administrative law judge, Dorothy J. Duda, in a proposed ruling issued last week. “In addition, the applications do not satisfactorily address how full ratepayer funding of utility-owned fuel cell generation would enhance private market investment and market transformation of the fuel cell industry.”

The utilities are not happy about the proposed ruling - “The objective of P.G.&E.’s Fuel Cell Project is to advance the installation of fuel cell technologies in California,” the utility said in a filing with the California Public Utilities Commission. “Fuel cells can play a role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by utilizing fuels with low or neutral carbon content at high electrical efficiencies.”

This is horse feathers in a fancy package! The utility plans to pass all costs through so they simply don't care and if the dress this turkey up right they can call it part of their 'clean package'. Three times the cost and about the same efficiency as a current model combined cycle plant is foolishness.

The article also points out Bloom would use any waste heat to enhance the efficiency of their unit - sounds neat but since there is no waste heat to speak of it is more of those horse feathers plus a writer writing without checking. Grade F for journalism! 
post #9 of 9
Poor PG&E. Poor fool cells.

3 parts energy in for every 1 part out.

How convenient that PG&E could supply all three parts.

Like nuclear, fool cells work best on submarines and spacecraft where you can't have a chimney or a wire or frequent feedings.

Outside such remote applications, there is something else that's cleaner and cheaper.
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