Apple's Options for North Carolina Fuel Cell Installation Point to Bloom Energy

While Apple has received a fair amount of attention for its planned solar farm at its massive data center in Maiden, North Carolina, the company publicly disclosed less than two weeks ago that it will also be installing the largest non-utility fuel cell farm in the United States to help power the facility.

bloom energy server
Bloom's Energy Server

GigaOm has assessed Apple's options for the 5-megawatt facility, determining that Bloom Energy appears to be Apple's partner in the project. Bloom, which is based in Sunnyvale, California near Apple's headquarters, is also said to already have "a few" of its fuel cells in operation on Apple's campus.

Bloom offers boxes capable of supplying 100 kW, which could translate into 50 Bloom Boxes being installed at Apple’s data center. Bloom has been in negotiations for similarly large-sized deals in the past, such as its negotiations in Delaware to build a 30 MW fuel cell farm (300 Bloom Boxes), and it has already installed 12 Bloom Boxes at Adobe’s campus in San Jose, Calif.

Apple is also touting the fact that its fuel cells will be run on biogas, and Bloom has substantial experience selling biogas-based fuel cells. Both Adobe and eBay are running their Bloom fuel cells on biogas. Bloom has also been the go-to fuel cell maker for Internet, telecom and computing giants’ experiments with fuel cells.

The report notes that Apple's options for fuel cell partners are relatively few, with UTC Power's larger fuel cell boxes not cleanly adding up to Apple's stated 5-megawatt capacity for the facility and FuelCell Energy specifically denying that it is working with Apple.

Apple is clearly interested in pursuing alternative energy sources for its facilities, and data centers are popular laboratories for such projects given their energy requirements and their typically rural locations that make it cheaper to dedicate land to energy production. The company already touts that its facilities in Austin, Sacramento, Munich, and Cork are powered by 100% renewable energy sources as part of a broad effort to reduce minimize its environmental impact across its facilities and throughout its products' life cycles.

Top Rated Comments

skinuca Avatar
133 months ago
Bloom is good stuff

Their technology is great but also really cool is generating power at the point of use. Distributed generation like that relieves a great deal of pressure on the grid and will lower costs and increase efficiency for everyone in the long run.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mjtomlin Avatar
133 months ago
I know in recent years Apple has worked hard to reduce their footprint by decreasing the size of their packaging and working on projects mentioned in the above article. However why is it when you order something like an Apple Keyboard, the box that it ships in is easily 5 times larger than the product box itself? Kind of defeats the purpose of having more minimal packaging.

The reduction of packaging size saves in shipping from factory to distribution centers when items are shipped in mass/bulk.

When they're shipped individually to customers, then they need to be placed in a larger box for protection. There's not much you can do to get around that - have you seen how shipping companies handle packages!? :eek:
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Will do good Avatar
133 months ago
Since Apple have so much money on reserve, it's great to see them trying to do some good with it.

Thanks for being good Apple. :)
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jayducharme Avatar
133 months ago
This is awesome. Let's get this stuff into the mainstream, pronto.

Exactly. That's my hope for this. If big companies like Apple keep pushing alternative energy solutions for their business, hopefully that will increase research and production and push the cost of these solutions down. I'd love to take my house off the grid, but currently it's impossible for me to fund the up-front costs (even with government rebates). It makes so much sense to have individual homes generate most of their own energy.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
SuperCachetes Avatar
133 months ago
This is awesome. Let's get this stuff into the mainstream, pronto.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AidenShaw Avatar
133 months ago
It's a waste of money as anyone who has studied the costs and benefits knows. Only companies that are rolling in cash can afford it which is why only cos. like google and apple are mentioned.

Kind of like volts and karmas for the 1%ers.

The 8.5 kW array that I had placed on my roof here on the Peninsula has a payback period of 6.5 years assuming the rates don't change and my consumption doesn't change. (I pay $0/year for electricity now.)

In places like California with tiered power prices, you can pay off the panels in as little as 4 years if you put up a much smaller panel that eliminates the higher tiered consumption.

If the rates go up and/or my consumption goes up, the payback date is even shorter. (And this is ignoring the fact that when the panels went up, the appraised value of my home went up by double the cost of the panels.)

Your FUD is simply wrong - in sunny areas PV panels can pay for themselves rather quickly.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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