Apple has decided to double the size of the fuel cell power plant at its North Carolina data center. The fuel cell industry is very small, so Apple’s 5 MW (5 million watt) project is relatively large to them.
This 5 MW installation is an addition to Apple’s existing 5 MW system, doubling the size of its fuel cell installation to 10 MW, which is more than Ebay’s 6 MW system.
This gives Apple the title of the largest fuel cell–powered data center.
These fuel cells are powered by biogas procured from landfills. Biogas is very similar to natural gas, as it consists of primarily methane. Actually, methane is the desired fuel that makes natural gas and biogas useful. That is where the energy comes from.
Biogas is a byproduct of the decay of organic matter such as dead plants, old food, animals, animal feces, and other things like that. The use of landfill-derived methane is more environmentally sound than natural gas obtained via hydraulic fracturing (sometimes called “fracking“). Landfills will decay and release methane whether or not they are utilized as a source of biogas. They might as well be put to use, if economical.
This project is not important just because it reduces fossil-fuel usage at the data center, but because the existence of such a project is necessary to prove that it is possible.
Whether or not it is economical is a different story.
Everything is to be tested before it can be deployed all over the world, because many people will not trust it until they see it work, and it is also necessary to detect and iron out faults before the whole world adopts it.
Source: Technology Review