Bloom Box

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thc
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Bloom Box

Postby thc » Mon Feb 22, 2010 4:37 am UTC

I saw this on 60 minutes, which really didn't do a good job of explaining. Bloom Box. What is it? How does it work? What's so good about it? Is it real?

Gogogo.

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Re: Bloom Box

Postby Nemiro » Mon Feb 22, 2010 4:51 am UTC

You're either talking about little boxes with lights that grow vegetables, or people getting power using a diesel/ethanol/kitten/water wheel generator in their own homes, then storing it and either using it or selling it back to the grid, and somehow this is much better than stereotypical big stinky earth killing powerplants, which it could be but only if all the power came from people erecting wind turbines and the like, which if you think about nicely solves some of the NIMBY mentality surrounding wind farms.
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Re: Bloom Box

Postby lulzfish » Mon Feb 22, 2010 6:50 am UTC

thc wrote:Bloom Box. What is it?

You tell me. You saw the 60 Minutes, and I don't want to
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Re: Bloom Box

Postby Hawknc » Mon Feb 22, 2010 7:49 am UTC

Your Google-fu is not strong. Only by embarking on a quest to discover the Link of Relevance will you prove yourself worthy. Return with this sacred item to continue your discussion.

(It's an interesting topic, but if you're going to post a topic in N&A, please provide a link rather than expecting others to do your research for you.)

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Re: Bloom Box

Postby Hawknc » Mon Mar 01, 2010 1:41 am UTC

Alright, since the OP hasn't come back and this is a legitimately interesting topic, I'll throw in a link (added to OP) with the video from 60 Minutes that started this: http://www.engadget.com/2010/02/22/the- ... ome-video/

Long and short of this: a compact, theoretically inexpensive fuel cell that uses "beach sand" instead of rare metals to combine oxygen and a wide range of fuels (sounds like almost any gaseous hydrocarbon) to generate electricity with a lower CO2 footprint than the grid. It already exists in use at Google, eBay and Walmart among others, so at least the concept is sound. Personally I like the idea for its potential to decentralise the power network if you can get it cheap enough, but that comes at the risk of simply making us all dependent on natural gas instead of power lines.

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Re: Bloom Box

Postby poxic » Mon Mar 01, 2010 2:02 am UTC

Now we just need to get a giant whack of those modified bacteria that excrete hydrocarbons. If they can be used in a composting chain that starts with household garbage, your garbage might be able to power your house some day. Nifty, if it ever gets working like that.
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Re: Bloom Box

Postby psyck0 » Mon Mar 01, 2010 4:14 am UTC

Gaseous hydrocarbons have the lowest CO2 emission footprint per kJ energy product of any carbon-based fuel source, I believe, because they are the most highly reduced forms of carbon. They release about half as much CO2 directly. Some countries and industries are trying to lower CO2 emissions by switching to them for this reason. The problem is transportation- after you factor in transportation and processing and all the other stuff to make it usable, they only beat coal by 10-20% according to whatever source my envirochem course used (too small font to make out, but it is a legit one).

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Re: Bloom Box

Postby MrGee » Mon Mar 01, 2010 4:31 am UTC

So like...how do you save any money if you still have to buy natural gas?

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Re: Bloom Box

Postby Hawknc » Mon Mar 01, 2010 7:17 am UTC

Honestly, I'm not sure - joule for joule, natural gas is more expensive than coal power here (~$0.75/MJ compared to ~$0.15 per kWh). I can see it being cost effective if there was a carbon price set, but right now it doesn't seem cost effective.

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Re: Bloom Box

Postby Cynical Idealist » Mon Mar 01, 2010 7:48 am UTC

Hawknc wrote:Honestly, I'm not sure - joule for joule, natural gas is more expensive than coal power here (~$0.75/MJ compared to ~$0.15 per kWh).

...


For those who care, its ~$0.75/MJ for natural gas to ~$.04/MJ for coal power
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Re: Bloom Box

Postby Hawknc » Mon Mar 01, 2010 8:34 am UTC

Right, I forget people don't convert them as a matter of course. :P

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Re: Bloom Box

Postby Endless Mike » Mon Mar 01, 2010 3:11 pm UTC

Hawknc wrote:Honestly, I'm not sure - joule for joule, natural gas is more expensive than coal power here (~$0.75/MJ compared to ~$0.15 per kWh). I can see it being cost effective if there was a carbon price set, but right now it doesn't seem cost effective.

Besides the obvious "green" benefits (which are really the main selling point), I think the idea is that you're no longer paying for power lost in transmission and that you can sell excess energy back into the grid. It also has the advantage of decentralizing energy, so blackouts become less common.

EDIT: Natural gas also seems to be much cheaper here in the US, closing at $4.91 per million BTU (Google tells me this is $0.00465/MJ and I'm not sure how spot prices compare to residential costs) compared to a national average of $0.1176 per kWh ($0.0321/MJ) for electricity.

EDIT AGAIN: Residential costs were $11.25/1000 cubic feet in November and there's 1020 BTUs in one cubic foot, so $11.03/MBTU ($0.010/MJ), so it's still a pretty significant savings.

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Re: Bloom Box

Postby MrGee » Mon Mar 01, 2010 6:33 pm UTC

Endless Mike wrote:
Hawknc wrote:Honestly, I'm not sure - joule for joule, natural gas is more expensive than coal power here (~$0.75/MJ compared to ~$0.15 per kWh). I can see it being cost effective if there was a carbon price set, but right now it doesn't seem cost effective.

Besides the obvious "green" benefits (which are really the main selling point), I think the idea is that you're no longer paying for power lost in transmission and that you can sell excess energy back into the grid. It also has the advantage of decentralizing energy, so blackouts become less common.

EDIT: Natural gas also seems to be much cheaper here in the US, closing at $4.91 per million BTU (Google tells me this is $0.00465/MJ and I'm not sure how spot prices compare to residential costs) compared to a national average of $0.1176 per kWh ($0.0321/MJ) for electricity.

EDIT AGAIN: Residential costs were $11.25/1000 cubic feet in November and there's 1020 BTUs in one cubic foot, so $11.03/MBTU ($0.010/MJ), so it's still a pretty significant savings.


I have trouble believing there's more power lost in transmission than is used by a truck hauling natural gas around to every house in town.

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Re: Bloom Box

Postby Cynical Idealist » Mon Mar 01, 2010 6:50 pm UTC

MrGee wrote:I have trouble believing there's more power lost in transmission than is used by a truck hauling natural gas around to every house in town.

I have trouble believing that natural gas would be delivered by truck (to the end consumer) in most places.

Hawknc wrote:Right, I forget people don't convert them as a matter of course. :P

I wouldn't have thought it noteworthy if you hadn't said "joule for joule".
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Re: Bloom Box

Postby Endless Mike » Mon Mar 01, 2010 6:58 pm UTC

Natural gas is piped into my house for cooking and the furnace (and maybe the water heater) right now. Obviously, not everywhere has the infrastructure in place, but I don't think it's uncommon.

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Re: Bloom Box

Postby Paranoid__Android » Mon Mar 01, 2010 7:21 pm UTC

I want one for my guitar amp, it's very electricity hungry :|
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Re: Bloom Box

Postby MrGee » Mon Mar 01, 2010 11:13 pm UTC

Cynical Idealist wrote:
MrGee wrote:I have trouble believing there's more power lost in transmission than is used by a truck hauling natural gas around to every house in town.

I have trouble believing that natural gas would be delivered by truck (to the end consumer) in most places.


I guess I was thinking of heating oil.

Still, it must take a lot of effort to build the pipes, maintain them, and pump the gas through.

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Re: Bloom Box

Postby Dauric » Mon Mar 01, 2010 11:20 pm UTC

MrGee wrote:
Cynical Idealist wrote:
MrGee wrote:I have trouble believing there's more power lost in transmission than is used by a truck hauling natural gas around to every house in town.

I have trouble believing that natural gas would be delivered by truck (to the end consumer) in most places.


I guess I was thinking of heating oil.

Still, it must take a lot of effort to build the pipes, maintain them, and pump the gas through.


In the U.S. most urban areas west of the Mississippi already have natural gas lines to homes and businesses. Most rural areas have liquefied Propane tanks and regular deliveries of Propane in smaller tankers (about the size of a typical panel-truck) that could (in theory) be modified to tanked Natural Gas. I think a fair amount of areas east of the Mississippi have Natural Gas access as well.

It wouldn't be any kind of "Universal" solution by any stretch, but then again precious few solutions to any problem will work universally.
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Re: Bloom Box

Postby Endless Mike » Tue Mar 02, 2010 3:11 pm UTC

MrGee wrote:
Cynical Idealist wrote:
MrGee wrote:I have trouble believing there's more power lost in transmission than is used by a truck hauling natural gas around to every house in town.

I have trouble believing that natural gas would be delivered by truck (to the end consumer) in most places.


I guess I was thinking of heating oil.

Still, it must take a lot of effort to build the pipes, maintain them, and pump the gas through.

I don't think anyone is expecting this to be a universal solution, but it's not like we have a universal energy solution as it is. If it pans out, it has a number of advantages, though. As Dauric said, the infrastructure already exists in a lot of areas, so other than building the actual units, the hard part is done.

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Re: Bloom Box

Postby Hawknc » Wed Mar 03, 2010 7:35 am UTC

Mea culpa - the numbers I provided earlier didn't match right with what I figured I was paying for natural gas, so I went and looked at my bill. Turns out it's closer to 1c/MJ, which makes it less than a third of the cost of the electricity I pay. That doesn't take into account the efficiency of the bloom box, but even if it's only 40% efficient (which is reasonable for a fuel cell), that's a definite cost saving. Clearly I need to pay closer attention to the sources I use.

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Re: Bloom Box

Postby ZZamfir » Wed Mar 03, 2010 5:12 pm UTC

Hawknc wrote:Mea culpa - the numbers I provided earlier didn't match right with what I figured I was paying for natural gas, so I went and looked at my bill. Turns out it's closer to 1c/MJ, which makes it less than a third of the cost of the electricity I pay. That doesn't take into account the efficiency of the bloom box, but even if it's only 40% efficient (which is reasonable for a fuel cell), that's a definite cost saving. Clearly I need to pay closer attention to the sources I use.

In that case something fishy is going on. After all, gas plants are pretty cheap to build and easily 40% efficient. Which suggests that utilities around you should be able to make a profit burning gas as base load, which I suppose they are not doing.

For example, is there a fixed portion to your power and gas bills?

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Re: Bloom Box

Postby stevey_frac » Wed Mar 03, 2010 9:39 pm UTC

The problem is that only 50% of what you pay for electricity is actually electricity. The rest is charges for transport and operating the grid. Also, buying, maintaining, and operating those turbines takes money too. Just the price of fuel isn't really a fair comparison.

Also: neither of you are figuring the amortization of the natural gas plant vs the bloom box. Right now, the bloom box is worth about a million dollars.

Where I live i can buy 20,000 MW hr of electricity for that. Seeing as I only actually use about 24 kw hr/day ... even assuming the bloom box fuel is free and not just cheaper, it will take me 2,283 years to break even. Obviously ... financing fees are not included.
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Re: Bloom Box

Postby Hawknc » Wed Mar 03, 2010 10:44 pm UTC

Well, a commercial size bloom box (I hope we get a better name for it than that) is worth about US$800,000. A residential one would be appropriately cheaper.
ZZamfir wrote:In that case something fishy is going on. After all, gas plants are pretty cheap to build and easily 40% efficient. Which suggests that utilities around you should be able to make a profit burning gas as base load, which I suppose they are not doing.

For example, is there a fixed portion to your power and gas bills?

Yes and yes. Coal is practically a cartel in Australia, it provides 80% of the power. Building new gas plants is more expensive than just maintaining the current coal-fired stations, and there's a good century's worth of both coal and gas here.

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Re: Bloom Box

Postby Endless Mike » Thu Mar 04, 2010 3:03 pm UTC

Hawknc wrote:Well, a commercial size bloom box (I hope we get a better name for it than that)

All I can think of is Boom Blox.

But yeah, a residential unit should be significantly less than the $800k units powering large buildings. The company is claiming a residential unit would cost $3000 at some point in ten years(source). Obviously, that's basic conjecture at this point, so we'll see. I think the bigger caveat is that natural gas costs would increase in kind as demand rises. Still you increase efficiency across the board.


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