Google uses Space-Aged Tech to Develop Own Energy

Dennis Faas's picture

Google is among several firms testing a new device that could replace the need for receiving electricity through power cables. It coincides with the search giant getting a license to buy and sell power in bulk, most likely to get a cheaper supply of energy.

The device, known as the Bloom Box, is produced by the relatively new firm Bloom Energy. It's roughly the size of a refrigerator and is filled with fuel cells which can create electricity through an emissions-less chemical process. The process hasn't been fully detailed (the company plans a public launch shortly) but it involves a combination of oxygen from the air with a natural fuel source such as gas, or even solar energy.

Bloom Originally Developed by NASA

The technology was originally developed to produce oxygen for astronauts visiting Mars. Now that NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) appears to have dropped all foreseeable plans for such a mission, Bloom has effectively reversed the process to produce electricity.

The company says there are several possible uses for the device: it could be used to supply power to around 100 homes without the need for them to be connected to a wider power grid; it could be based in a utility substation, for example as a back-up; it could also be bought and used by large companies which want their own power supply (such as Google).

Bloom Box Saves eBay $100,000 in Energy Costs

CBS' 60 Minutes recently visited an eBay data center that uses the device, where staff claimed it has saved the auction company around $100,000 so far. Given the reported purchase price of around $700,000 to $800,000, that could mean it is indeed a financially viable option in the long term. Both Google and Federal Express are reported to have tested the Bloom Box as well. (Source:

Google Searches Out Power License

Coincidentally, Google has just acquired a license for trading energy in bulk. Though it has several energy-related products, including a system for more accurately tracking power use within a home, the firm says it doesn't intend to sell power to consumers or businesses.

Instead, it feels the license is necessary in order to buy power in large enough quantities to meet its needs and achieve bulk discounts. One estimate says a Google data processing center in Oregon could require more than 100 megawatts of electricity, enough to power a small city. (Source:

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