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Why is Bloom Energy Lying to Us?

Don't get me wrong, I'm extremely excited about Bloom Energy. I honestly think that their technology is a good thing for the world and generic viagra lowest prices without perscription that it might very well revolutionize the power infrastructure in America and throughout the world. And yes, it will create jobs and make a select few people very rich.

In fact, I think it's so revolutionary that it doesn't need to be inflated by false or misleading claims...which is why I'm a little put off by a few naughty little lies in the Bloom press release I got this morning.

Annoying press point #1: The Bloom Box "energy server" works with "nearly any fuel source." To me, "nearly any fuel source" means anything containing carbon/hydrogen compounds, ranging from gasoline to wood. The Bloom Box doesn't run on "nearly any fuel source" it runs on methane or methane or methane. That methane can be pumped out of the ground or captured from landfills, but it's still methane, and as I count it, that's one fuel source.

Annoying press point #2: Companies using the Bloom Box can "expect a three to five year payback on their capital investment." This is insane. The average cost per kW/h in California is 14 cents and Bloom promises a cost of roughly 9 cents. 100 kW multiplied by 8760 hours in a year times $0.05 per kW means 100 kW of continual electricity consumption over the levitra mail order course of the year will save a company a maximum of $45,000 per year. Call me crazy, but I don't see how they're going to pay for a $700,000 piece of equipment (even with a 50% government subsidy that won't last forever) over the course of three or five years by saving $45k per year.

Annoying press point #3: Probably what annoys me most about Bloom's press release is that they claim the box "provides a cleaner, more reliable, and more affordable alternative to both today’s electric grid as well as traditional renewable energy sources." Again, if it's not an outright lie, it's at least very misleading. The Bloom Box might be more reliable than both, but it isn't cheaper than the grid and it isn't cleaner than solar or wind. Marketing double-speak isn't good for anyone. If you take that sentence at face value, then you might as well cease all development of solar and wind and put 100% of the country's resources into Bloom Boxes.

Bloom Energy's technology is fantastic and canadian cialis exciting. It's much cleaner than our current electricity infrastructure and more practical than distributed solar. It's great, but there's no reason to make false claims when your product is this revolutionary.

By telling 60 Minutes that the cheepest viagra device can run on solar power (Huh? How?) and saying that it doesn't perform "dirty combustion" they're implying that this is the same order of clean energy as solar or wind power. But it's simply not, they're turning hydrocarbons into carbon dioxide (and a host of other pollutants, of course) just like every other power plant in the world.

I'm tired of news organizations taking this press release at face value, but I'm even more annoyed that Bloom fed them all these exciting bits of B.S..

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Comments (44)Add Comment
About the 60 minutes solar comment
written by phil, February 24, 2010
I take that as bad editing by CBS rather than Bloom trying to mislead.

I agree with your points that they do not need to 'hype' it. Just TELL the actual story. BUT... once you get VCs into a game, in my humble opinion... the game and the truth stretching changes.
written by Boom Boxy, February 24, 2010
Yet, being off a vulnerable grid and using ever increasing methane supplies is a huge value for institutions that can't afford the vagaries of the grid or the slightly dangerous nuclear power plant. Water vapor in special chemical structures actually generates the majority of atmospheric greenhouse effect as opposed to carbon dioxide.
Methane only? Not what I've read elsewhere.
written by John Cornwell, February 24, 2010
The article in the San Jose Mercury News says that the servers use "hydrogen, natural gas, methane or other fuels". Not true?
Go Hank!
written by Dave, February 24, 2010
Get 'em, Hank!
..., Low-rated comment [Show]
Not so smart...
written by BB, February 24, 2010
as you think you are... can run on solar with solar providing electricity to help produce fuel from the fuel cell "in reverse."
written by Foo, February 24, 2010
Re: Point-2: In California, at least residential rates go to more then 40c per watt for the highest tier. I have a large house and most of my energy money goes there... I don't know if corporations have tiered system, too, but I would assume so.
Bloomin hyper
written by Gavin, February 24, 2010
Some good points indeed sir. Let us not forget that Bloom Energy, above all else, are a commercial company beholden to generous investors. it's not that surprising then that this relatively inexperienced/naive young company has gotten their PR/sales-spin/hype entangled with their product manual, perhaps intentionally, in a rather rushed and desperate effort to gain global media attention/coverage and rise above the competition. Even our beloved British and American governments use spin to generate positive media and make us think they know things they quite obviously don't.
Well thats all from me.Keep up the good work please. Tweet me if you like, Im sure we can be friends.
Adressing some points
written by Hank, February 24, 2010
Oh Come On...storing energy created from solar power is very different from using solar power to create energy. Even if the device can do that in it's current form, which I don't think it can. I don't think it has anywhere to store the generic cialis uk online pharmacy produced hydrogen.

I agree though, that's probably just crappy editing by CBS.

Natural Gas, Methane and Bio-Gas are all just different ways of saying methane. And whether or not the devices can run on hydrogen, (nothing I've read directly from Bloom says the can) I hope I don't shock you all when I say that 99% of hydrogen used in America is produced by breaking guessed it...methane.

As for the cost of power in California, that's a peak rate in select areas in a select state. Maybe we're all headed in that direction, but I figured a national average was a safer bet for calculations than "rates in one part of one state at one time of the day."

You're welcome to disagree.

Your costs numbers are way low, says the DOE
written by Fred, February 24, 2010

And of course, the first units will go where the costs are highest (Alaska, Hawaii, New England etc). I think you are getting a little overheated calling them liars.
re: lying
written by Hank, February 24, 2010
I mean, if they aren't lying they're certainly misleading the press and thus the whole country.

This box doesn't run on solar, it doesn't produce and store hydrogen, it will take 20 years for the "typical user" to pay off, it only works with limited fuel sources and it isn't as clean as true renewables.

Sorry if I'm picking nits, but it all seems a lot like lying to me.
You go man!
written by ShanwHarmon, February 24, 2010
You have a great web site and your analysis here is dead on.
Cost Per Kilowatt?
written by Shawn, February 24, 2010
Last time I looked at my Electric bill, my cost per kilowatt was most definitely not "below ten cents". Mine came out to about 15 cents per kilowatt including all delivery and transmission charges. Using this rate, I live on the east cost im sure CA rates and some other states are higher, you're talking about 131000/year in electricity savings. This still might not be 3-5 years to pay it off, but it's getting real close at that point. Their claim might not be as far off as you are saying.
The marketing is a little too good!
written by SolarDave, February 24, 2010
I thought the the best choice purchase cialis soft tabs same thing when he said yes it could run off of solar panels.

I think they are a little too good at marketing. I did a post on it as well.
Looking for a silver bullet ?
written by Anon, February 24, 2010
I mean, come on.. Are you expecting the world to go cold turkey on fossil fuel ? We import 400 billion worth of oil a year. If we increase energy usage efficiency by mere 1%, it's 4 billion in savings. Does that not matter to you ?
It Matters
written by Hank, February 24, 2010
Re: Anon
I thought I made it clear that this was a really fantastic technology that I was very excited about. My problem isn't with the technology, it's that they're trying to mislead us into believing things that aren't true. The technology is great, I hope they scale up implementation 1000 fold over the next few years.

Re: Everyone who's electricity bills are higher than mine...I'll go and change the math based on CA still comes out to over ten years though, even with a 50% subsidy that won't last into mass-implementation.
Chill. This is a demo project. Not their production models.
written by Jeremy, February 24, 2010
If you built a car in your garage without using any pre-existing parts, it might cost $700,000 too.

The fact that their demo models cost $700,000 bears NO reflection on what their actual cost is going to be once they go into production on a large scale. When that happens, costs will come down. Then we can start getting real about whether it's going to be worthwhile.

We got a similar scare a few weeks ago with algae fuels. A researcher claimed they were less environmentally friendly than corn biofuel - based on ten-year-old demonstration projects. Again, totally not relevant to actual costs once they go into serious production.
written by Foo, February 24, 2010
Again, when you have a tiered rates, you don't need to buy the system that will make you grid independent, only the system that will push back to lower rates, and again at my rates (>=40c) just getting their future product 1KW box for $3K would pay off in about one year. They don't have the product yet (and likely for quite some time as they say), but even at rates of only here online ordering levitra $8K/KW, it's about 3yrs to pay off for a big company that uses a lot of power.
..., Low-rated comment [Show]
Solar quote from Bloom's website
written by Mike in Austin, February 25, 2010
"Coupled with intermittent renewable resources like solar or wind, Bloom’s future systems will produce and store hydrogen to enable a 24 hour renewable solution and provide a distributed hydrogen fueling infrastructure for hydrogen powered vehicles."
(Emphasis added)
Lots of info on their web if one cares to look...
written by net97surferx, February 25, 2010
I would think -- even if it's not perfect, the cost savings of NOT having to have giant transmission towers, high tension lines and substations would be worth considering.

Also, this would seem a great idea for powering solo charging stations for electric vehicles.
written by Andy, February 25, 2010
If you look at the specs on their website, it says it can run on natural gas or directed biogas, which I assume is methane (which could be extracted from landfills since they emit methane and most in the US have methane release/exhaust systems. But that's 2 sources.

Where's the plot twist?
written by inexplicablyNic, February 25, 2010
The whole 60 minutes interview feels like it should be at the beginning of a dystopian futuristic movie. I'm just waiting for the main character to discover that the seemingly perfect Bloom Boxes are actually being powered by the souls of murdered kittens.

It's good to see a successful fuel cell; I just wish they could be honest about it. Too much hype, too little information.
Maybe a bit of "pomp and circumstance"....
written by smooter, February 25, 2010

It is true that they are a commercial company, and their job is to make money. ANY time you include ANY marketing, it is going to be trumpted up, over blown, surprising/exciting, and at worst...boldfaced lies.

I have been reading a lot of the buzz, been excited to see/hear the details, and impressed by what info there was before the "announcement".

Gotta be honest though, I am impressed with the fact that they are actually USING the tech, it does work, and there is actual savings in the cost of power. Overall though, I was impressed with the guy that designed/invented it. I was truly touched by his statement "we have to stop looking at the world for what it is, and start looking at it for what it could be..." or something like that. That is compelling!

Until someone in the green tech industry stops trying to make things "better" on their tech, and decides to just go into mass production (as Bloom has started) so that consumer prices will drop, then what is it all for?

I get so tired of reading about CiGS, algae, blah, blah, blah, and not being able to purchase ANY of them for less than 20 years salary! Time to create consumer level pricing by producing mass quantities, and then, only then, will you start to see some type of buy low price cialis green on every house/building/skyscraper/etc.

I like Bloom because they are selling (or about to sell I guess) an actual product, and at the scale that their units provide power, it is understandable that it will be a while before I can pick one up at Lowes....Solar/CiGS neither one have that excuse. There should be DiY solar kits in every home improvement store by now!

I just think it is time to start BEING green, and stop DEVELOPING green! We have multitudes of products!

Sorry for the long post....

Another factor
written by Aunty Proton, February 25, 2010
I don't know if this would also factor in to the pay off on the $700k cost, but what about savings from continuing efforts at efficiency? If they're using less energy but still creating the same amount with the Bloom boxes, that's more they're sending back to the power company and thus quicker pay off.

I don't know if it would make up the difference or not but I can't imagine Google or similar large modern company not continuing to bring their energy use down.

And what if they produce their own biogas off their own organic waste?

Aunty Proton
Agree but watch that math
written by Matt Peffly, February 25, 2010
"Add in the cost of the fuel (in whatever form) the cost of maintenence and financing, and I doubt these companies are saving more than $60,000 per year per box. So I don't see how they're going to pay for a $700,000 piece of equipment (even with a 50% government subsidy that won't last forever) over the course of three years."

If I get a 50% subsidy (forever) then the gov picks up half, leaving me $350,000. Divide by your $60k/year and I get 6 years. It's marketing math. Of course if rates go up, which I sure is the assumption they make to up justify. Then you can get to 5 years.

And when I read line in the paper this morning "can use Solor, wind, ..." I thought some interviewer was not on their toes. How the overnight saturday deliver tramadol #$% does a fuel cell use solor or wind? Or can you run this one in reverse input electric and water get fuel, not likely.
spoke to soon
written by Matt Peffly, February 25, 2010
Well mud in my face. They are claiming energy storage, input your extra solor, wind, whatever and it converts it to feul which can then be used later.

I will say this, more comments than I seen in a long time. So fuel cell really rev people up. A lot more on their web site today than 3 days ago when it was just a short clip.

Interest in the environment section "Humidity 20%-95%". Not sure exactly what that mean, can't use them in the desert, on rainly days, or the month of Aug the Ohio river valley.

I just hope they do in fact bring down their cost.
written by Matthew Yacomine, February 25, 2010
This device (in it's current form at least) could actually be the biggest impediment, and threat to green technology invented yet.
And could have drastic consequences politically.
While at the moment there is a kind of balance between the use of electricity supply from fossil fuel power stations(that use Coal fired, and Nuclear Systems) and other applications that use gas directly (Heating, oven etc.)
This essentially hands an opportunity to gas suppliers to create a greater monopoly on energy supply across the board, making it less viable for these other forms of electricity production, which will not only have a massive and detremental effect on price to the consumer, but make it so that these other companies can afford less to spend on cleaning up their act, and we all know what happens when a single company or sector gains such a monopoly... it gives them greater power to supress emergent technologies that would threaten their new monopoly.
But also, while the political effects may be less in the US, or elsewhere around the world, in Europe, many countries are already under the cosh from Russian dominance of the gas market, which they have already used to great effect as an "energy weapon" against Ukraine and other European states, to make these nations even more dependent than they already are on Russia, could increase tensions, and have disasterous consequences.
So while on the face of it, this looks agood idea, and may well be so for many elsewhere around the world in certain situations, it should, in my opinion be re-named "Pandora's Box"
Excellent Question
written by Mercy Vetsel, February 25, 2010
The lies bug me as well and as more truthy details seep out this sounds more and more like they are lying for the same reason people always lie -- the truth isn't enough. It looks to me like they need another $400 million dollars from the IPO.

I don't remember Google lying to us prior to their IPO and for all of viagra without prescriptions the hype about the Segway, at least it wasn't a lie. In fact I don't know how they can even get away with the deception with an IPO pending. Do "green" companies just get an automatic pass from the SEC?

According to Forbes, the actual cost is not $700K or $800K, but more like $900K or a cool million. In addition, from another NYT article the cells only last for THREE YEARS.

That's right, the system has a 10-year lifecycle but the fuel cells will need to be replaced twice. So who pays for that?

They claim costs of $0.08 to $0.10 cents per kwh, but that is clearly including major subsidies. Using extremely rosy assumptions I estimated a price of $0.13/kwh but I used a 15 year life cycle, assumed maintenance was included in the sticker price and didn't include the state subsidies to Bloom which Forbes mentions.

All in all if they'll lie about these things then they will lie about anything. I was optimistic because it seemed like a reasonable breakthrough, but increasingly it's becoming clear that they haven't even gotten close to producing an economical SOFC and are just looking fund another 10 years of R&D.

It's actually very slimy, especially since they are sucking oxygen from all of the HONEST people working on fuel cells.

48% More (not less) CO2 and $.06/kWh fuel cost
written by Carl Hage, February 25, 2010
There are mistakes in the assumptions above-- you have to add natural gas fuel prices to the amortized equipment cost to compute payback, but then you subtract the cost you would pay for the electricity it generates. The $.09/kWh must assume a low gas price (see below), very low interest loan (or ~0% ROI), and 50% subsidy.

You have to take the press releases with some skepticism. The competing solution is an internal combustion generator, less than 10x the fuel cell price. The Sunnyvale (where Bloom is) landfill and sewage treatment plant uses these to make electricty already. The ICE engines are around 37% efficient vs 52% for the fuel cell, so an advantage in fuel cost and CO2 emissions, but not much. (The fuel cell doesn't have the NOx, etc. emissions of an ICE engine, so is clean in that sense.)

PG&E is the utility that serves Bloom, Google, and eBay. The Bloom boxes emit 48% *more* CO2/kWh than the PG&E grid average. Unless there is an offset reusing industrial or building heat, these fuel cells are less efficient than a combined cycle power plant. (The 52% fuel cell efficiency is better than the ~30% peaker turbine efficiency, but they run only during peak day use, not 24x7.)

Based on the prior 2 year PG&E commercial gas price, average fuel cost is $.06/kWh, but in 2008 prices fluctuated between $.03-.10/kWh. Spread over 10 years with no interest or subsidy, the $700K comes out at 8 cents/kWh, or 4 cents/kWh with a 50% tax subsidy and 0% interest loan. The savings quoted are questionable. If gas prices go back up, then the cost of electricity would be high.

With fossil fuel, it's not green because it uses more gas/kWh than existing gas power plants and emits more CO2, unless the fuel cell used for industrial or building heat. It could be great running off biogas-- the only problem there is cost. An internal combustion engine is less efficient but is way cheaper now.
piece of the puzzle
written by ds, February 26, 2010
the bloom cells will probably end up as range-extenders for cars.
storage can be done better by hydro or isentropic heat storage-device.
if they bring price down to what they say for a range extender with 20 000 hours of operation this is way cool.
what would really knock me out would be a cell that transforms co2 into methane for storage with 100% renewable energy. maybe somebody will come up with that someday. technically it is possible today with a reformer and additional hydrogen but is still too expensive.
Small idea, niche application
written by Sve, February 26, 2010
Another UPS for buildings possibly. You still need fuel (methane). An alternative for homeowners for the electric grid? No way. This is a technology angling for government subsidies and only today online pharmacy viagra hoping for the same thing that corn ethanol got. It made a few people rich. It was marginally useful in very special situations. But it was an overall dumb idea.
You give them more credit than I do
written by Jeremy Abramowitz, February 26, 2010
I don't even think fuel cells are promising and don't see how theirs is any different, the capital cost is enormous, as you noted, and the benefits are minimal. The most recent reading I did on the subject found that for fuel cells to be viable, their cost would have to decrease by a factor of 30.

The more important question is where you get the fuel and what kind you use, not what type of machine you use to burn it.
Sorry, but I don't see lies
written by Barry R., February 27, 2010
Okay. Actually point one is at best hype. I'll give you that one.

Point two: I think this point has already been made, but obviously the cost of the first couple dozen essentially hand-built prototype units is going to be higher than mass production stuff. The marketing dilemma is that the first few units are going to be much more expensive than to build than subsequent units and will be sold to the corporate equivalent of early adopters--cash flush corporations that are willing to spend extra for the prestige of having the 'next big thing' before anybody else. The marketing for Bloom boxes needs to talk about the payback once they get to mass-production, because that's the only point where it makes sense for most people. At the same time they don't want to tell potential early adopters that prices will be much lower if they wait a few years. The early adopters undoubtedly know that, but why rub their faces in it?

Point three is poorly phrased, but they do have a potentially valid point. A Bloom box would presumably be cleaner and more efficient than traditional power sources, and more reliably available than wind or solar. I could see it being a good supplement to solar, cutting CO2 as an interim tech while we get our act together on storage and smart grid.

The claim of using solar left me shaking my head too, but apparently the guy was talking about an option that Bloom has toyed with where the box is used to generate and store fuel.

I would call their marketing more confusing than deceptive.
cost per kwh
written by cncmike, February 27, 2010
Have to agree with Shawn. Don't believe the lie of 10 cents per kwh from the electric co. That's the lie they tell me but my total bill says it cost me over 15 cents per kwh on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
Well said Hank
written by Mark, February 28, 2010
I am by now means technical in this aspect, but even I could see through their marketing. It is a great technology and cheapest cialis online much better than the current system but it sucks in comparison to wind, solar or geothermal, in regard to energy in energy out and how clean it is. Frankly I am surprised a company like Google got to suckered by it.
Let's be real on both sides here.
written by Paul, February 28, 2010
1 - works with any gasified fuel. EBAY uses the methane from the local landfill, but that's a special case. Get your facts straight on that one.
2 - a little math goes a long way here, there's a boatload of subsidy in the current payback. Why is this any different than the mumbo jumbo the drug generic propecia local Solar supplier uses trying to get me to put up an array at home. They don't pay for themselve either.
3 - You're just too much of a skeptic on this one. Any fuel cell providing local power is more efficient than the grid with its line loss, so its all about affordability. Venture capitalist aren't idiots, there has to be some potential reality to this considering they're 2-400 million into this already and its not a gift. Basically, as I interpret the technology, its a really cool catalytic converter and they've figured out how to do it without a precious metal. The rest is just economy of scale if they've really figured that out.
BloomBox annoyance
written by Justin, February 28, 2010
4) the thing that annoys me the most is the presenter of the BloomBox. He's... well, annoying. I need say no more. just watch. Its not what the tech does that I have a problem with, but how its presented. I don't even call 'bullsh*t" I can easily where it would and probably does work... I call 'annoying' He'd do really well to look to the CEO's of a few other prominent technologies.... think Eric Schmidt would present a product like this? even Steve Jobs? (though he's come close) .... I would say 'Bill Gates' but it'd probably blow up on stage and its not the injured viewers fault the presenter is a jynxing retard
Are they also co-generating heat?
written by bbm, March 01, 2010
These things will put out a lot of heat, which can be utilized to heat nearby homes and buildings or businesses.

Perhaps that is part of the payback equation?

written by Diana, March 03, 2010
Great article, agree with you whole-heartedly! But it was my understanding that natural gas could be used as a fuel sources as well, not just methane... I believe that's what Google was using.
why a fuel cell
written by wtf, March 12, 2010
Just a thought.The product being discussed has miss leading claims.I understand that companies do hype up their product.That is were your ability to separate BS from the claims is your own responsibility.
Now to diverge from the advertisement claims.You can purchase a sterling engine generator (try looking in the marine industry) and have the fuel source customized for natural gas(methane).If you do not understand were I am going with this you have completely missed both concepts from the Boom's company Idea and cialis endurance how a sterling engine works. good luck
written by wtf, March 12, 2010
By the way . Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. If you think it is then your very act of living and all air breathing animal area polluting right this second.Please think for your self and logically come to a conclusion.
written by Jeff, March 16, 2010
Hey smarty-pants...

Where exactly do you think the carbon in CO2 that animals exhale comes from?

It comes from plants that those animals eat. And the plants get the carbon from CO2 in the atmosphere during photosynthesis.

I know this may be complicated for you, so let's review...

Plants get carbon from CO2 in the atmosphere --> Animals get carbon from plants --> Animals exhale CO2 back into the atmosphere = NO NET INCREASE IN ATMOSPHERIC CO2

In contrast, releasing CO2 by burning fossil fuels that have been buried deep in the earth for millions of years DOES increase atmospheric CO2 levels. That's why it's not the same as the CO2 we exhale.

Definition of Lying
written by SovietNZ, February 06, 2014
Ok so press point 1... Yeah, you are kind of right. However, there are different models of varying intricacy. So, no, technically it isn't a lie. Just because he didn't tell you in great detail about products the company doesn't want disclosed, doesn't make him a lier. With people like you getting what they want, Russians wouldn't need spies.

2. Wasn't a lie. In New Zealand what he stated was correct. So, perhaps if you assumed the American Company was pointing solely at your country, then yes, i can see how you would feel lied too. And in further inspection... If the technology was " Rented " Out by the Government in America ( Don't act nieve like they won't buy boxes to keep it's people paying... ) They would most certainly make a great investment. No more Pylons or Nuclear power plants... Less highly trained workers to pay, and more basic workers... including Repo men.

3. Yet again... not a lie. It is all of those things. Unless the Majority of Americas energy grid is, in fact, a more " green " alternative? Does he need to say " Solar and wind are better for the environment " to appease you?

And finnaly... This has a far greater application than he bothered to mention ( Probably because it sets alarms off to Idealists and Anti-War lobbyists ) and that is it is highly portable, functions around the clock, Regardless of hindering factors as sunlight and wind. UAV's that never land... Ground forces with high intensity Laser technology capable of defeating armored targets... So you can see how the current price of this tech is rather steep. It isn't actually as difficult or expensive to make as you are told, you are simply not meant to have it. That is the only lie i can see. If you are reading this, and in 20-30 years time your government is making you pay annually for this free energy, remember someone told you a while back to wake up.

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