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We were wondering where Apple and Bloom Energy were planning on getting all that biogas to run the large fuel cell farm at Apple’s North Carolina data center. According to a filing with FERC, Apple will get the biogas from landfills.

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We were wondering where Apple and Bloom Energy were planning on getting all that biogas to run the large fuel cell farm at Apple’s North Carolina data center. According to a filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Apple will get the biogas — which is methane from decomposing organic material — from landfills (hat tip Data Center Knowledge).

Apple will actually use “Directed Biogas,” meaning that the biogas from the landfills will be cleaned and injected into the local natural gas pipeline, and the fuel cells won’t be directly running off of the biogas. But Apple’s biogas supplier will inject the equivalent amount of biogas that would be used by the 4.8 MW of fuel cells.

Biogas can come from various types of wastes including hog farms — which are prevalent in North Carolina — restaurants and industrial processes, and water treatment facilities. Biogas is created when organic matter is broken down in a closed anaerobic digester, or a landfill where oxygen isn’t present, and the gas is captured.

Biogas in many states is considered renewable energy because it is mostly methane gas and can be used in place of fossil fuels for heating, electricity or powering transportation. Methane is a greenhouse gas, and it is also being stopped from being released into the atmosphere in this process. Beyond Apple, Google and Microsoft are also interested in biogas projects.

Biogas is still a very small source of power in the U.S. According to the American Biogas Council, there are only over 160 anaerobic digesters on farms and about 1,500 more operating at wastewater treatment plants. Patrick Serfass, the Executive Director of the trade group the American Biogas Council, says that the biggest barrier to more companies utilizing biogas is awareness.

  1. Thanks to Tom Hayden, landfill gas won’t be powering any of the UTC or Bloom fuel cells in California. Even if the gas is cleaned up to utility natural gas standards, it is illegal to inject landfill gas into the natural gas system.

    Dairy manure, urban green waste, etc sourced biogas from anaerobic digesters is OK if cleaned up to system standards.

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