New aerial images of Apple's planned NC fuel cell, solar farms emerge

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014


Pictures of the area surrounding Apple's iCloud datacenter in Maiden, North Carolina show that progress is being made in preparing land for the company's future biogas and solar farm energy arrays.



The images, captured by Wired in March and posted on Friday, show a large swath of cleared ground in front of Apple's datacenter that will presumably house the Bloom Energy fuel cells as well as 100 acres of freshly razed land that is expected to be used for a solar farm.



Apple will employ 24 Bloom Energy Servers using natural gas supplied by Piedmont Natural Gas and a 20-megawatt solar installation to power its massive $1 billion datacenter. Once finished, both of the energy sources will be the largest privately owned systems of their kind in the nation.



Opened in early 2011, Apple server facility supports its iTunes and iCloud services and is the nerve center of the iPhone 4S' Siri virtual assistant.



Reports estimate that the alternative power sources will begin operations later this year and will provide 9.8 percent of the energy required to run the 500,000 square-foot datacenter.








Cleared land across from the Maiden datacenter to be used for solar farm. | Source: Wired








[ View article on AppleInsider ]

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Comments

  • asciiascii Posts: 5,363member
    How much more will it cost to maintain all those solar cells and biogas than just buy some mass produced energy from the local power company? One of these days all these little extra expenses are going to add up and Apple will find themselves unable to compete.
  • wurm5150wurm5150 Posts: 763member
    That's one expensive 9.8% worth of energy source..
  • davegeedavegee Posts: 2,766member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ascii View Post


    How much more will it cost to maintain all those solar cells and biogas than just buy some mass produced energy from the local power company? One of these days all these little extra expenses are going to add up and Apple will find themselves unable to compete.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Wurm5150 View Post


    That's one expensive 9.8% worth of energy source..



    Heck... Why don't they just scoop up all the pine straw they can find... Hint, think CRAPTON! and just use that as a power plant fuel?



    Look we can pick apart every alt energy and show how it's totally unusable to replace oil and coal it's fun to read the laundry lst of points that show how solar cant even break even however if we did the same thing with oil I'm pretty sure we could make just as compelling a case as to why oil is a failure. Apple is doing a good thing here just let em be...
  • lmgslmgs Posts: 63member
    I guess Apple has found a way to waste some of the cash they have laying around, and at the same time get some good PR from the tree huggers...



    What they need is a small nuclear power plant, like the ones used in aircraft carriers... It's the cleanest energy around..
  • jonoromjonorom Posts: 293member
    I assume by "largest privately owned in the US" the author actually means non-utility owned.
  • shadow415shadow415 Posts: 43member
    FYI: The claim that the renewables "will provide 9.8 percent of the energy" comes from Greenpeace and is highly suspect. Their calculations assume that every device in the data center will be running at 100% its rated utilization for 100% of the time and there is zero overhead for redundancy.



    It's sort of like calculating the annual power usage for your 1.1kW (1100W) toaster like this:



    1.1kW * 24h * 365d = 9636 kWh per year



    Which ignores the fact that even if you did you your toaster 24h a day, the element is not on that whole time. Thus, actual power consumed is much less.



    Having been involved in the design and construction of large data centers, actual usage is nowhere near the maximum design rating of 200W psf.
  • jonoromjonorom Posts: 293member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Wurm5150 View Post


    That's one expensive 9.8% worth of energy source..



    I don't totally disagree with you, but it is worth noting that the most important function of the fuel cells is to provide backup power for when the electric utility has a blackout. There is no price you can put on having 99.9999% uptime for a data center. The 9.8% of total power is probably related to Apple adding more servers. The older servers are probably backed up by diesel generators.
  • davendaven Posts: 344member
    I hope the thing is tornado proof.
  • jonoromjonorom Posts: 293member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by LMGS View Post


    I guess Apple has found a way to waste some of the cash they have laying around, and at the same time get some good PR from the tree huggers...



    Well, they are getting 1% return on the cash. I suspect the return on the solar will be better.



    ROI is a screwy concept when interest rates are so low and the cost of money (if you have it) is almost nil.
  • jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ascii View Post


    How much more will it cost to maintain all those solar cells and biogas than just buy some mass produced energy from the local power company? One of these days all these little extra expenses are going to add up and Apple will find themselves unable to compete.



    After initial purchase cost, maintenance on solar is near zero. Maintenance on a biogas generator is quite small. These things will reduce Apple's costs over the long term rather than increase it.



    In my mind, this is a FAR better use of their cash than a dividend because the savings for the solar system will increase year over year. Most solar systems have a life of around 25 years. Want to guess what Apple's fuel or electricity costs would be in 25 years?



    Solar involves a very high initial purchase cost and then near-zero operating costs. For a company which is cash-rich and doesn't have greater needs for the cash, it's a fantastic solution - even aside from the PR benefit.



    I only wish that they had put the panels on the roof rather than clearing another 100 acres of forest.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by shadow415 View Post


    FYI: The claim that the renewables "will provide 9.8 percent of the energy" comes from Greenpeace and is highly suspect. Their calculations assume that every device in the data center will be running at 100% its rated utilization for 100% of the time and there is zero overhead for redundancy.



    It's sort of like calculating the annual power usage for your 1.1kW (1100W) toaster like this:



    1.1kW * 24h * 365d = 9636 kWh per year



    Which ignores the fact that even if you did you your toaster 24h a day, the element is not on that whole time. Thus, actual power consumed is much less.



    Having been involved in the design and construction of large data centers, actual usage is nowhere near the maximum design rating of 200W psf.



    Absolutely. Be very suspicious of what you hear from Greenpeace. With some experience in data centers, it is likely that the solar cells will provide a pretty large percentage of total energy usage. There's not enough public information to know for sure, but based on typical figures for a well designed system, it's large.



    A good facility designed to reduce energy usage will use less than 30 kW per square foot (daily average). That would put the total energy usage at roughly 15 MW for this data center, with the peak usage occurring during daylight hours. Now, the solar system has a peak output of 20 MW, but taking into account nights, cloudy days, etc, they probably average only about 30% of that - or 6 MW. So the solar system can probably provide closer to 40% of the total power usage, not 9.8%. And if Apple is using state of the art methods to reduce energy usage, the power usage could be even lower, so solar might providing even more of the total.
  • j_invantagej_invantage Posts: 1member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ascii View Post


    How much more will it cost to maintain all those solar cells and biogas than just buy some mass produced energy from the local power company? One of these days all these little extra expenses are going to add up and Apple will find themselves unable to compete.



    I think they made their little spreadsheet before doing such a thing... Seriously, who would do any business move without exploring whether it is sustainable or not... Of course it will be worth it. Electricity for huge businesses like this costs a lot more per kW than your regular home or small business. And if they want to grow, then a billion dollar solar and biofuel farm is not an option.



    And considering how the electricity is made in the US, it maybe very well come from a dirty electricity power plant. So technically you should than them for building that. They're cleaning your air.
  • rot'napplerot'napple Posts: 1,839member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JONOROM View Post


    Well, they are getting 1% return on the cash. I suspect the return on the solar will be better.



    ROI is a screwy concept when interest rates are so low and the cost of money (if you have it) is almost nil.



    Well let's hope they got some great deals on those solar panels during the auctioning off of Solyndra, that, along with the purchase of a few Chevy Volts to traverse the complex ought to make it the greenest fuel cell, solar farm in NC... Well, except for all the missing green trees, shrubs, and grass... </facetious>

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  • Quote:
    Originally Posted by LMGS View Post


    What they need is a small nuclear power plant, like the ones used in aircraft carriers... It's the cleanest energy around..



    Until it comes time to decommission the plant or dispose of the spent fuel. Then it is far from the cleanest.



    And IMO, it has been demonstrated that the engineers, regulators and suits cannot be trusted to design and maintain nuclear plants with sufficient safety factors in place.



    But yes, they are free from toxic emissions during normal use.
  • adamcadamc Posts: 489member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Wurm5150 View Post


    That's one expensive 9.8% worth of energy source..



    Laugh all you like I hope this is the final legacy of SJ that is disrupting the the oil based energy industry with renewable energy.



    I would like to see in my life time the clowns eating crows for lunch and dinner.



    An after thought would oil price be what it is today in the year 2018. I just wonder.
  • jbellajbella Posts: 25member
    The other thing that the solar array and biogas facility give Apple is better cost certainty. If you depend wholy on the grid for electricity then you are subject to whatever price fluctuations the local utility will subject you to. Remember Enron and the manufactured energy crisis that California went through?



    With a solar array, you know how much that electricity is going to cost you for the next 25 years.



    Apple is doing a similar thing with their new campus in Cupertino. They are going to to generate their own power and use the grid as backup.
  • audio_insideaudio_inside Posts: 24member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Pictures of the area surrounding Apple's iCloud datacenter in Maiden, North Carolina show that progress is being made in preparing land for the company's future biogas and solar farm energy arrays.



    Calling these "biogas" is a stretch - they will initially (perhaps permanently) be running on Piedmont's natural gas derived from fracking, with future biogas "offsets" to be eventually produced and utilized off-site. And solid oxide fuel cells like the Bloom Box aren't pollution free - unless you don't consider carbon dioxide a pollutant: SOFCs running on natural gas rather than pure hydrogen still produce CO2 at close to half the level of a traditional fossil fuel-powered plant. [Data from "The International Fuel Cells, a United Technology Company", Fuel Cells Review, 2000.]
  • jonoromjonorom Posts: 293member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Pictures of the area surrounding Apple's iCloud datacenter in Maiden, North Carolina show that progress is being made in preparing land for the company's future biogas and solar farm energy arrays.



    The images, captured by Wired in March and posted on Friday, show a large swath of cleared ground in front of Apple's datacenter that will presumably house the Bloom Energy fuel cells as well as 100 acres of freshly razed land that is expected to be used for a solar farm.



    Apple will employ 24 Bloom Energy Servers using natural gas supplied by Piedmont Natural Gas and a 20-megawatt solar installation to power its massive $1 billion datacenter.



    [ View article on AppleInsider ]



    There is no evidence in this article that this installation will use biogas. It is almost certain that it will use natural gas.
  • timbittimbit Posts: 329member
    I was kinda hoping for more than 9.8%. It would have been nice to see Apple using renewable energy for something like 70% of their energy usage. Apple is definitely leading the way when it comes to stuff like this which is why I support them.
  • solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Timbit View Post


    I was kinda hoping for more than 9.8%. It would have been nice to see Apple using renewable energy for something like 70% of their energy usage. Apple is definitely leading the way when it comes to stuff like this which is why I support them.



    1) Perhaps that is their goal, but they are starting small, as they usually do, and they expand from there.



    2) Isn't their DC being powered by a hydro-electric dam right now?
  • suddenly newtonsuddenly newton Posts: 13,092member
    When I saw this article about self-sustaining "fuel cell, solar farms" I thought we were going to see this:



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