State officials on Wednesday gave Apple the go-ahead to build the nations largest privately owned fuel cell facility at a data center that the iPhone maker is claiming will be the worlds greenest complex of its kind.
Apples planned 4.8-megawatt fuel cell facility in Catawba County will tie into a green power supply boosted by a 40-megawatt solar farm, also the nations largest privately owned such facility. The Cupertino, Calif.-based technology companys $1 billion data center, about 180 miles west of Raleigh, will support Apples iCloud online data storage system and its SIRI voice-recognition software.
Apple has turned the data center into a global energy showcase, saying the 11.5-acre facility will generate more than half its own electricity needs and will offset the rest through green-friendly programs.
The project has lit up the Internet with its ambitious goal of becoming a gigantic net-zero complex at a time that Greenpeace activists have chided the company for its inordinate energy appetite.
At the data center in Maiden, Apple will compensate for the energy it cant generate on its own by subsidizing local green energy projects such as rooftop solar installations and landfill methane projects through N.C. GreenPower, a Raleigh nonprofit.
Fuel cells are a largely experimental way of silently generating power by chemical reaction rather than by burning fossil fuels or splitting atoms. Apple plans to use fuel cell modules called Bloom Boxes that are made by Bloom Energy of Sunnyvale, Calif.
The fuel cells will generate electricity from hydrogen, a chemical element that will be extracted from natural gas, which is a fossil fuel.
But the natural gas will be cancelled out of Apples energy equation by means of green economics. Apple plans to arrange for the production of landfill gas, considered a renewable resource, to offset the natural gas it will use for its fuel cells.
The biogas will likely be derived from methane produced by a nearby landfill. Apple has yet to disclose the source of the gas but the companys web site mentions a methane-blazing landfill just three miles from the data center.