eBay to Build America’s Largest Fuel Cell Data Center

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Global concerns about climate change, dependence on oil imports and increasing oil prices have brought renewable energy onto the centre stage of various data centers across the world. Taking this into consideration, online giant eBay has planned to power its main data centre in Utah primarily with renewable energy.

In partnership with Bloom Energy, eBay plans to install 30 large-scale fuel cells called Bloom Energy Servers powered by biogas. The new fuel cells will have an aggregate capacity of 6 MW and are able to provide enough power to operate eBay’s data center, though the power required for backup will still come from conventional energy from the grid. The facility will be the largest non-utility fuel cell installation in the United States.

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Bloom Energy Severs will be installed few hundred feet away from the data center and thus power losses from grid disruption will be virtually eliminated. Fuel cells can generate power 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and they thus replace the need for UPS and backup generators. Each server is expected to generate 1.75 Million kWh annually.

“We believe the future of commerce can be greener,” said John Donahoe, President and CEO of eBay. “Technology-led innovation is changing retail and revolutionizing how people shop and pay. We also want to revolutionize how shopping is powered. We are embracing disruptive energy technology and designing it into our core data center energy architecture. Running our data centers primarily on reliable, renewable energy, we intend to shape a future for commerce that is more environmentally sustainable at its core.”

The fuel cells are expected to serve about 15% of the eBay’s total energy needs and the system will be made operational by the middle of next year.

This new Bloom Energy project will be eBay’s largest renewable energy installation so far. eBay operates a 650-kilowatt solar array and a 500-kilowatt Bloom fuel cell installation at its San Jose headquarters, as well as a 100-kW solar array at its Denver data center. The company has also recently installed a 665-kW solar array on the roof of its LEED-certified Utah data center.

EBay is not alone in making announcements for going green with its data centre. Similar or more impressive announcements have been made by Apple, Microsoft, and Google in the past few months and even years, especially after the global pressure created by Greenpeace Campaign ‘How clean is your cloud’.

Data centers now consume about 1.3% of all global electricity. They are amongst the major consumers of energy. Therefore, they have the potential to help tremendously in saving fossil fuels and protecting the environment by reducing carbon emissions.

Image: Bloom Energy

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Mridul Chadha

Mridul currently works as Head-News & Data at Climate Connect Limited, a market research and analytics firm in the renewable energy and carbon markets domain. He earned his Master’s in Technology degree from The Energy & Resources Institute in Renewable Energy Engineering and Management. He also has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering. Mridul has a keen interest in renewable energy sector in India and emerging carbon markets like China and Australia.

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