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Apple plans nation's biggest private fuel cell energy project

Steve Sande, @stevensande
April 2, 2012
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Apple has made several moves lately that point to it becoming one of the nation's leaders in terms of adopting clean energy technology. First, the company announced that is installing a 20-megawatt solar farm across from the Maiden, North Carolina data center. Now the Greenboro, N.C. News & Record reports that the company plans to install the largest private fuel cell energy project in America near Maiden.

The project, which should be producing energy by the end of the year, will use large modular fuel cells from Bloom Energy of Sunnyvale, California. The company's "Bloom Boxes" (see photo above) are in use in a number of other fuel cell projects throughout the country, primarily in California.

Fuel cells produce electrical energy from hydrogen gas through an electro-chemical process, with water being the only byproduct. They've been used on NASA spacecraft for years, and have only recently made an impact on electrical power generation. The technology is rather expensive, which is why most fuel cell installations have been made in California where the state provides incentives equal to about half of the installation cost.

Apparently, the hydrogen fuel will be produced from natural gas feedstocks, with Apple hoping to offset the use of natural gas with landfill methane gas or other biogas. Bloom Boxes are being used for clean energy production by a number of other large tech firms, including Adobe, eBay, and Google.

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