EBay Turns To Bloom Fuel Cells For Utah Data Center

Facing the prospect of relying on grid electricity that comes almost entirely from coal, eBay has decided to create its own power at a new Utah data center.

Wind? Solar? Nope and nope. The data center, which expands on an existing facility, will rely primarily on fuel cells from Bloom Energy.

Bloom Energy, fuel cells, eBay data center

image via Bloom Energy

EBay called this a “renewable energy” source, saying the fuel cells will use biogas from organic waste in the chemical processes that create electricity – but apparently the cells won’t use that biogas directly.

The New York Times reported the fuel cells will run on natural gas, with eBay paying a premium to fund the production of biogas elsewhere. This is a common practice since biogas from renewable organic waste often is not available at a particular site.

Even powered by natural gas the fuel cells will be far cleaner than Utah grid power. In Utah, according to 2011 state report [PDF], 82 percent of electricity is generated from coal-fired power plants. On its website, Bloom says its technology allows customers to “reduce their CO2 emissions by 40%-100% compared to the U.S. grid (depending on their fuel choice) and virtually eliminate all SOx, NOx, and other harmful smog forming particulate emissions.”

“We are embracing disruptive energy technology and designing it into our core data center energy architecture,” John Donahoe, president and CEO of eBay, said in a statement. “Running our data centers primarily on reliable, renewable energy, we intend to shape a future for commerce that is more environmentally sustainable at its core.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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