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'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.