Jul 02 2012

Bloom Boxes Hold Potential for Green Energy in the Data Center

Could regenerable energy sources help wean data centers off the grid?

Imagine a world in which you generate and control the power for your own data center or office building, or perhaps your home.

Bloom Energy is a bold, venture-backed, green tech company based out of Sunnyvale, Calif. Their main product is the Bloom Energy Server, which they also call the Bloom Box.

How does the Bloom Box work? Data Center Knowledge investigated the green technology behind the company’s product in an article back in 2010.

The Bloom Box contains an array of fuel cells that can convert air and nearly any fuel source — ranging from natural gas to a wide range of biogases — into electricity via a clean electrochemical process, rather than dirty combustion. Even running on a fossil fuel, the systems are approximately 67 percent cleaner than a typical coal-fired power plant, according to Bloom.

CBS’s 60 Minutes also did a piece on the company and called the Bloom Box a “plug-in power plant.”

Since 2010, Bloom has racked up an impressive list of big-name customers, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Google and Apple. Bloom Energy can now add eBay to the list, as the online bidding company announced that its newest data center in South Jordan, Utah, would run entirely on Bloom Boxes. This is a big win for green energy and clean tech because other uses of Bloom Boxes have been partial deployments.

Data Center Knowledge has more details on the announcement:

The newest eBay data center project in Utah will run entirely on power generated by fuel cells from Bloom Energy, the company said this week. The use of the Bloom Energy Servers — also known as “Bloom boxes” — will give eBay a cleaner energy profile, allowing it to power its facility with biogas rather than coal-sourced power from local utilities.

Perhaps more importantly, eBay will overhaul its power infrastructure to dramatically reduce its reliance on uninterruptible power supply (UPS) units and backup generators. If the Bloom fuel cells providing primary power should experience problems, eBay will use the utility grid as its backup power source. In a traditional configuration, data centers use the utility grid for primary power, with UPS units and backup generators providing emergency power in the event of grid outages.

Is this a sign that green energy is finally ready to make a big splash in data centers around the world?

Bloom Energy