Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Apple Doubles Its Fuel Cell Farm At North Carolina Datacenter, Leapfrogging EBay 

Apple is doubling down on its fuel cell capacity at its datacenter in North Carolina, once again gaining bragging rights to the biggest fuel-cell powered datacenter by surpassing eBay. The fuel cells will provide up to 10 MW of power. Then there's the biogas...

In a regulatory filing with the North Carolina Utilities Commission, Apple says it will have 50 fuel cells running at its datacenter there by January, producing a total 10 megawatts in fuel cell energy. That will double the amount of fuel cell energy at the Maiden, N.C. datacenter.

Apple started building its first fuel cell farm at the site earlier this year, which can produce 4.8 MW. Apple fired up those fuel cells and began testing them in October. Given the immediate expansion, those tests must be
going well.

The North Carolina expansion was uncovered by the Charlotte Observer, which also says in an article that the cells are being fueled by directed biogas. The source of the biogas is not known.

The fuel cells are coming from Bloom Energy, which is also building the system for Apple. When the second phase is finished, the datacenter will be powered by the largest fuel cell system outside of an electric utility. This is another big win for Bloom Energy, which has been building a 30 fuel cell system at eBay's datacenter in Utah, giving it a capacity of 6 MW.

Apple and eBay seem to be vying with each other for bragging rights as owners of the biggest corporate fuel center in the world. EBay just announced its Utah fuel cell addition last June, thus surpassing Apple as the company with the biggest fuel cell farm outside of a utility at that time.

North Carolina's state legislature passed a renewable energy mandate in 2007, requiring that utilities increase their percentage of energy coming from clean sources to 12.5% by 2021. The estimated rate of renewable energy production in the state was 1.5% in 2009.

Apple will also sell (presumably excess) energy back to the local utility. That will both save money for Apple and help Duke Energy to fulfill its renewable energy mandate.

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