Bloom Energy announces hydrogen-powered energy servers to make always-on renewable electricity a reality
Bloom Energy, a developer of solid oxide fuel cell power generators, announced the ability of its Energy Servers to operate on renewable hydrogen. Current Bloom Energy Servers generate electricity using natural gas or biogas as fuel.
At peak times, some US states and countries already have more renewable power than their grids can handle. Despite those periods of excess wind and solar power, because the ability to store electricity for more than a few hours is lacking, dispatchable power from the combustion of fossil fuels continues to bridge gaps in supply.
In areas with large amounts of wind and solar power, excess renewables can be used to produce hydrogen from water via electrolysis. Such renewable hydrogen is becoming cheaper to produce and more readily available, and can be stored indefinitely where it is produced, or in large storage and pipeline networks like the natural gas system.
The ability to operate on renewable hydrogen means Bloom Energy Servers installed today to run on natural gas can be readily upgraded in situ to use renewable hydrogen in future.
The production, storage and dispatch of hydrogen from excess renewable power is the most scalable, affordable and efficient solution to the problem of balancing renewable power supply and demand. 100% renewable and clean energy goals are not realistic for any jurisdiction without massively scalable renewable energy storage and dispatch solutions of this type.—Jack Brouwer, Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center (NFCRC) at the University of California, Irvine
Bloom Energy Servers can operate on pure hydrogen or a combination of natural gas and hydrogen. As the availability of renewable hydrogen increases, it could also be blended into the natural gas pipeline network. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has concluded that blending up to 15% hydrogen into the natural gas supply will not significantly impact household appliances, public safety, or the durability and integrity of the natural gas pipeline network.
Bloom Energy anticipates early demand for hydrogen-powered fuel cells in Asia, where hydrogen production and utilization are being actively developed by countries including France, Japan, Korea and Australia.
Bloom Energy Servers can be placed virtually anywhere where renewable hydrogen, natural gas or biogas is available. A typical 250kW Energy Server produces enough electricity to power a big box store in an area about the size of a parking space. Any number of Energy Servers can be clustered together in various configurations to form solutions from hundreds of kilowatts to many tens of megawatts in a compact footprint.