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Apple doubles fuel cell capacity to 10MW at Maiden, NC datacentre

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Tech giant Apple may have incurred the wrath of eco-campaign group Greenpeace over its practice of making its gadgets all but unrecyclable, but that doesn't mean it's comfortable being the bad boy of green IT. The firm has just confirmed plans to double the size of its fuel cell project at its $1bn datacentre in Maiden, North Carolina.

According to filings made to the North Carolina Utilities Commission, first reported by the Charlotte Observer, Apple will begin operating 50 biogas fuel cells at the plant from January, generating up to 10MW of electricity from cleaned methane, obtained from a landfill site.

The first phase of the fuel cell deployment began in October 2012, intended to test the feasibility of generating 4.8MW at the site.

Apple's Maiden facility has become the poster child of its environmental efforts. The site uses free air cooling to reduce the energy spent on cooling its servers; a chilled water storage system reduces energy consumption further.

The fuel cells Apple will use are from Bloom Energy, which is believed to use solid-oxide fuel cells that combine natural gas with oxygen from the air, and produce electricity without burning. Bloom Energy also counts eBay and Google among its customers.

One of the reasons tech firms have been so keen to adopt fuel-cell technology is because of the massive power requirements of modern datacentres – the vital organs of cloud services.

Earlier this year, Greenpeace savaged both Apple and Microsoft over their datacentre energy use, criticising the pair for their use of “dirty energy” to power their datacentres. Greenpeace regards electricity generated at coal or nuclear power plants as dirty energy. 

05 Dec 2012

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