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Bloom Energy introduces ultra-efficient fuel cell tech

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CHARLOTTE – A new energy technology could affect the way North Carolinians power their homes in the future.

Bloom Energy, a California company, unveiled a new type of fuel cell Wednesday afternoon. The company says it's twice as efficient as a normal power grid. Now, Charlotte-based Duke Energy admits they're trying to determine if it's feasible for the area.

The Bloom Box can power a home, a business or, at some point, a small town or business. It's slightly larger than an industrial refrigerator and is powered by a series of small, flat ceramic fuel cell squares.

Bloom Energy said the fuel cells are 50 percent more efficient than a power grid and can run on a variety of fuels, including natural or methane gas. It could do away with the need for power lines and power plants.

Duke Energy said they have researchers looking into whether this is the new wave of the energy industry.

"We're aware of the technology, we're monitoring it. It's too early to say whether this has a place for the utility industry or not, but certainly it's technology we hope would have promise. But there's still a lot of unanswered questions in terms of cost and reliability," Dave Scanzoni, with Duke Energy, said.

Right now, the Bloom Box costs at least $700,000, although the company believes it can lower that price to $3,000 for homeowners.

The Bloom Box is being used by companies like Google, Wal-Mart and eBay.

But skeptics say fuel cell technology isn't anything new.

"This is something that is an exciting development in terms of its ability to be scalable to homes, but it may be several years off yet," David Trusty, a spokesperson with Piedmont Natural Gas, said.

"It's uncharted territory," Scanzoni said. "It's worth exploring, absolutely, but still a lot of questions need to be addressed." ClientIP: UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP