New eBay data center will run on fuel cells

While other data centers use fuel cells as back-up power sources, they will provide primary power for eBay's Utah data center

Biogas fuel cells will power an extension to eBay's data center in Utah, set to go online around the middle of next year.

U.S.-based Bloom Energy will install 30 biogas fuel cells with a combined capacity of 6 megawatts. The biogas will come from agricultural waste. There will be no traditional backup power systems such as diesel generators or uninterruptible power supplies at the data center: the electric utility grid will be used as backup to the fuel cells, the companies said Thursday.

The data center will handle eBay's e-commerce marketplace, its PayPal payment system and its StubHub ticket sales sites, eBay said.

This will be eBay's fifth renewable energy installation, and by far the largest. It already has a 665 kilowatt solar array on top of the existing Utah data center, while its San Jose headquarters is powered by a 650 kilowatt solar array and a 500 kilowatt fuel cell system. There is also a 100 kilowatt solar array at a data center in Denver.

This isn't the first data center contract for Bloom Energy: It has already supplied 24 fuel cells, with a combined capacity of 4.8 megawatts, to Apple for its Maiden data center in North Carolina. Those fuel cells were expected to begin generating this month.

With data centers consuming an ever greater proportion of the world's electricity, their operators are seeking cleaner or more economical energy sources, often renewables such as hydroelectric, wind, solar or biogas, in a bid to reduce pollution and carbon emissions.

Another route to reducing emissions is to cut out the use of electricity altogether for certain functions, such as the use of free-air or evaporative cooling instead of electric-powered air conditioning in areas where the climate allows it. That will be the case at a data center Facebook is building on the edge of the Arctic Circle in Lulea, Sweden.

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