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Apple To Double Big Fuel Cell Farm At North Carolina Data Center

Bloom fuel cell

According to new reports, Apple will be more than doubling its use of fuel cells to power its data center in North Carolina. Bloom Energy, the tech giant’s fuel cell provider, will be installing 50 more Bloom boxes that will produce 10 megawatts of electricity. This is a pretty big leap from the previous 4.8 megawatts.

The 4.8 MW portion has only been up since October, and the rest are expected to be installed and online by January 2013. When fully completed, this fuel cell farm will be the largest of its kind that is not owned by a utility company. eBay was previously ahead of Apple with 6 MW of energy coming from fuel cells, but that lead will change when Apple’s project is finished.

Apple also plans to sell power from the cells to local utility Duke Energy which means not all the energy will be used to fuel the data center. The cells will use biogas, so Apple will earn money by selling the power and Renewable Energy Credits to Duke. This is kind of a strange concept because Apple will be contributing overall to the clean energy supply in North Carolina, but will still be sucking up dirty grid power for the rest of its energy supply. I’d rather see the company reach 100% clean energy at the data center before producing power to sell off.

On the plus side, Apple will source the biogas from Element Markets Renewable Energy, and the biogas will come from landfills. It will then be injected into natural gas pipelines rather than used directly by the fuel cells.

What’s your take on this? More clean energy is better than none, but would you rather the company work toward 100% renewables for its data centers before selling it off to utilities?

Image: Bloom Energy

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