Apple recently announced that they are planning to build a massive solar array at their data center in Maiden, North Carolina that will be complemented by a pretty sizable fuel cell installation. According to Katie Fehrenbacher over at GigaOm, Bloom Energy — a Sunnyvale, California-based renewable energy company — is rumored to be behind the 5 megawatt, biogas-fueled energy project. Bloom markets their solid oxide fuel cells as affordable clean energy solutions, and it seems that Apple is catching onto the technology and wants to put it to use.
No precious metals or corrosive materials are needed to run Bloom’s fuel cells which operate at high temperatures to turn steam and biofuel into energy. The fuel cells cycle over and over like a battery that never stops running. When the fuel cell has run through its cycle it produces a small amount of carbon dioxide which is counted as an emission and some steam which is recycled and used in the next cycle of the fuel cell. Neither Bloom Energy nor Apple would confirm that these fuel cells are behind the Maiden data center but rumors are still flying and seem likely to be true.
According to GigaOm, Adobe and eBay are already putting Bloom’s 100 kW fuel cell boxes to use at their facilities and are running them on biogas. Apple noted in their 2012 Facilities Report that their new 5 MW Maiden fuel cell installation will run on biogas. The technology giant already has a 500-kilowatt biogas-powered fuel cell project at their Cupertino facility helping them to reduce their CO2 emissions by 1.2 million kilograms. According to Apple the fuel cell installation at their LEED Platinum Maiden, North Carolina facility, “will be the largest non-utility fuel cell installation operating anywhere in the country. This 5-megawatt facility, located directly adjacent to the data center, will be powered by 100 percent biogas, and provide more than 40 million kWh of 24×7 baseload renewable energy annually.”