Nation’s Largest Private Fuel Cell Energy Project to be Build by Apple in North Carolina

By on May 30th, 2012

Wednesday, May 30, 2012 14:05

How much do you know about fuel cells? Most people know it’s something to do with hydrogen, but because it’s pretty expensive, they probably didn’t pay much attention to it.

The information is true: fuel cells rely on hydrogen and generate electricity when the right kind of electrochemical process takes place. And although the federal government offers a 30 percent tax credit for them, the price is far from what you call affordable for most citizens. Apple however is eager to go down this road with a brand new 2012 fuel cell project in mind.

The giant is already familiar with them – it’s building miniature cells for laptops – but this project consists of a 4.8-megawatt structure in Maiden, North Carolina, alongside another of the company’s data centers of 500,000-square-foot and a planned 20-megawatt farm powered by solar energy.

The land seems to have a particular zen spirit about it, since both this fuel cell project and the solar farm will be pioneering projects in terms of magnitude. But it must be more than that to make Apple invest an estimated $30 million in the one of the world’s most expensive forms of electricity ($6.7 million per megawatt).

So far, we are being kept in the dark as to the exact reason. One hypothesis might have to do with the bonus payments Apple is to get from Duke Energy as long as it delivers renewable energy to the latter’s grid, all for a negotiable price. The few details we know for certain are that the facility will have 24 fuel cell modules to be built by Bloom Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas is to provide the natural gas for the extraction of hydrogen.

Reading this, you might be puzzled: how is this a renewable facility when it’s using natural gas? You’re right: indeed, to meet this criteria, Apple or Bloom will have to produce a biogas (maybe landfill methane) to compensate for the use of natural gas, but again, no way of knowing yet the name of the biogas supplier or the necessary quantity of the natural gas. Whatever these are, I’m sure we will find out in time about them; what’s important is that an essential step towards renewable energy has been taken, if even a company the size of Apple is engaging the way it is. It seems that more and more companies are turning their face to solar power. I think that this type of energy is the key for a clean future.


Posted in category solar power
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