Wired just published aerial shots of Apple’s data center in Maiden, N.C. from Monday, when construction crews were in the midst of laying foundation for a large structure in a northwest sylvan area, and it appears the company has just begun assembling its Bloom Energy fuel cells for biogas conversion.
When Apple published its 2012 Facilities Report and Environmental Update, we got some new details on its plans for the now-under construction Maiden, N.C.-based iCloud data center. We reported that Apple planned to build the largest end user–owned onsite solar array in the United States across the road from the data center, as well as the largest non-utility fuel cell in the country at 5-megawatts. Today, Hickory Daily Record confirmed construction has officially begun.
…this week, work has started on the main campus of the data center. Driving by the campus, you can actually see the structure from the road. That’s because part of the berm — an earthen wall — has been demolished as part of some type of construction… What type of construction taking place on the main campus is not clear. No one is talking, or seems to know.
While it is unclear exactly what the new structure on the main campus will be, there are a few options swirling around. We know the 5-megawatt fuel cell will be next to the main data center, and the new building could house that installation. However, as HickoryDailyRecordpointed out, Maiden Town Manager Todd Herms said Apple originally planned to build two identical structures when it began construction of its Maiden data center. Apple only built one, so the new building could be the second building of the main data center.
The report noted Apple’s main contractor for data centers in area, Holder Construction, pulled zoning permits last week for a “tactical data center.” Another permit issued on Wednesday named 34 acres of the main data center campus. The current 500,000-square-foot building only occupies about 11.5 acres, so its possible the new building will be larger than the current data center. As we pointed out in our overhead shot of the data center pictured right (Thanks PilotJohn),the report also confirmed land is being cleared for the solar farm’s construction across the road. Read more
Apple’s $1 billion data center in North Carolina powers iTunes and iCloud.
We told you in October about a 174-acre solar farm Apple reportedly started building to power the new Maiden, N.C., data center facility. Surrounding the facility will be the largest end user–owned onsite solar array in the United States. It will consist of a 100-acres and a 20-megawatt facility to provide approximately 42 million kWh of clean, renewable energy each year. The company’s 2012 Environmental Update from two weeks ago revealed plans for another five-megawatt non-utility fuel cell installation—the nation’s biggest—right next to the data center.
Supposedly running on biogas made from landfill waste and carbon-neutral, it will offer 40 million kWh of 24×7 baseload renewable energy every year. Now, GigaOM has it“from a couple sources” that Apple commissioned fuel cell maker Bloom Energy to supply the firm with fuel cells for the facility. Apparently, Apple already has “a few Bloom fuel cells running on its campus.”
Bloom’s fuel cells are large boxes that suck up oxygen on one side and fuel (natural gas or biogas) on the other to produce power. That means that with the fuel cells (and a solar array that will be built) Apple’s data center will have a source of cleaner distributed power that isn’t coming from the local utility via the grid. Bloom offers boxes capable of supplying 100 kW, which could translate into 50 Bloom Boxes being installed at Apple’s data center.
Each Bloom Box costs $700,000 to $800,000 and takes about as much room as a parking space. The Bloom Boxes are approximately 67 percent cleaner than a typical coal-fired power plant or the grid, and 12 were installed at Adobe’s San Jose campus. Bloom Energy also has deals with Bank of America (500 kW), Coca-Cola (500 kW), FedEx (500 kW), Staples (300 kW), Cox Enterprises, and Walmart (800 kW), in addition to various telcos and Silicon Valley giants, such as eBay (500 kW) and Google (400 kW). The firm is also in talks to build a 30 MW fuel cell farm consisting of 300 Bloom Boxes in Delaware.
CEO K.R. Sridhar founded the Sunnyvale, Calif.-headquartered fuel cell maker in 2002. Originally called “Ion America,” it was renamed to Bloom Energy in 2006. Now, what is interesting about Bloom Energy is that the company was funded by Apple’s old pal, venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins...
Interesting: it seems the first big deal component Apple may manufacture with its newly-licensed LiquidMetal alloys (beyond that SIM card remover shipped with iPhone before) isn’t the body or the antenna — it’s the battery! Read more