Sunday, February 21, marked the public debut of the Bloom Box by Silicon Valley energy startup Bloom Energy. The residential fuel cell, designed for backyards, was featured on CBS's 60 Minutes, and suggests a new future for home-based renewable energy technology. The company has drawn hundreds of millions from investors to develop the technology—and appears close to producing zero-emission fuel cells that are small-scale and could power an average home at an estimated cost of $3,000 without any need to be connected to the power grid. The technology is supposed to reach consumers in five to 10 years, and the blog Green Tech Media points out that similar home units from companies like ClearEdge Power in California are significantly costlier—$56,000 for a 5-kilowatt system. Major companies like Google, Staples and FedEx use industrial versions of the boxes already, and have helped to raise the company's profile.
It has taken Bloom Energy ten years to develop the Bloom Box, and CEO K.R. Sridhar told 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl that he had originally developed the technology for NASA—with the aim of producing oxygen on Mars to make that planet habitable.