Is the Bloom Energy Server Cost, Scale Prohibitive?

But solution providers say the $700,000 to $800,000 price tag along with its ability to generate 100 kilowatts of electricity could make it a difficult sell.

"The price point I believe is going to be the difficult thing," said Darryl Parker, CEO of Parker Web Services, a North Carolina solution provider.

Bloom Energy unveiled the Bloom Energy Server this week at a California event attended by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Bloom Energy Server users a combination of air and fuel sources such as hydrogen, methane and natural gas, to create electricity via solid oxide fuel cells. Enterprise versions of the affectionately named Bloom Box are already in use in massive corporations like Coca-Cola, eBay, Google, Staples and Walmart, and Bloom Energy said it expects home versions of the Bloom Energy Server to hit by 2010.

Essentially, the Bloom Energy Server is a fuel cell designed to enable individual homes and businesses to generate their own power.

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While the high price and large capacity could be restrictive for some users, a scaled back version may be perfect for the need for SMBs and smaller users, solution providers said. Until then, however, the nearly $1 million price is prohibitive.

Another potential option for the Bloom Energy Server is in third world countries. Similar to water-filtration systems, delivering a few Bloom Box devices to third world or disaster ravaged countries could be a big opportunity.

"Imagine if 10 of these were sitting in Haiti right now," Parker said, referring to the island nation crippled by paralyzing earthquakes more than a month ago.

The Bloom Energy Server comes as energy costs and carbon footprint are highly scrutinized as the world looks to "go green." What sets the Bloom Box apart from the pack is its ability to tolerate various gases. The rub, however, is the Bloom Energy Server requires very high temperatures to run properly, making it sensitive to heating and cooling.

According to Bloom, the Bloom Energy Server uses lower-cost material, offers unparalleled efficiently in converting fuel to electricity, runs on a wide range of renewable or traditional fuels and is more easily deployed and maintained.

Bloom Energy said its server also offers constant power and is 67 percent cleaner than the average power plant using coal.

One data center solution provider in the Northeast said that if Bloom Energy can scale down the Bloom Box and make it more affordable, it might be better suited for home and smaller business deployments, especially in high-density data center environments that require massive amounts of power.

Parker agreed.

"The price will go down with home deployments," he said. "But right now there's an enormous opportunity in third world countries, if this is portable and easily shipped. It takes years to build power plants."