Blog Post

Apple appears to have started building its data center fuel cell project

One of the things I really wanted to see — but didn’t — on my road trip to Apple’s data center in North Carolina was Apple’s(s AAPL) planned fuel cell project from Valley startup Bloom Energy. Alas, if I had only taken to the skies. This week Wired commissioned these aerial photos of the site, and it appears that Apple has already started construction on the massive fuel cell farm as well as the solar farm across the street.

Wired‘s photos show a small plot of land tucked behind the data center with what appears to house concrete pads that could fit the fuel cells. It looks like the configuration I’ve seen for Bloom Energy’s fuel cells. The plot of land is next to a substation.

The solar farm across the street already has solar panels installed on it, too. When I tried to peer into the solar farm in June I only saw the poles to house the solar panels. But it looks like a sizable portion of the panels have been installed.

Workers building out the power lines around Apple’s data center

There’s all this speculation — and buzz — about Apple’s data center project in North Carolina because Apple is building an unprecedented amount of its own clean power to provide electricity for the data center. The Bloom Energy fuel cell project is planned to provide 4.8 MW of energy, which is one of the largest fuel cell projects in the world, and Apple’s two solar panel farms will provide 200 MW.

It also came out last month that Apple is building another smaller “tactical” data center next to the current data center. Tactical data centers like these are not uncommon and can enable Apple to do things like separate the servers for the various IT services and treat those servers differently, or run the separate servers on a different power source as well as helping Apple add on more servers in phases. These small tactical data centers are far cheaper and can be built more quickly.

If you want to know more about energy, data centers and clean power, check out my series: