EBay to Power Data Center with Fuel Cells
Fuel-cell power servers sit outside an eBay data center in South Jordan, Utah.
CREDIT: Bloom Energy
EBay will power one of its data centers with biogas-filled fuel cells in 2013, the company announced today (June 21).
As people do more and more online, technology companies have built more power-hungry data centers, which are primarily powered by coal power plants plugged into the national grid. "It's not pretty," a technology analyst at Greenpeace told the New York Times. Some companies use alternative energy as a supplemental source of power, but eBay will be the first major technology company to use greener electricity as the main power source for a data center, the New York Times reported.
The online auction company is installing 30 of the greener power servers in a facility in South Jordan, Utah. Each server is made of thousands of fuel cells, according to Bloom Energy, the company that makes the servers. Fuel cells create electricity from a chemical reaction, so they're more efficient and less polluting than coal, which creates electricity from combustion. Bloom's cells use biogas created from renewable sources as fuel. The South Jordan servers will still use the grid for backup power.
EBay will still rely mostly on the grid for electricity overall. The new installment will provide less than 15 percent of the electricity eBay's data centers use – a sign that high-tech companies will always need to tap into the grid, according to the New York Times. EBay estimates it will use 43 million watts of power in 2012. One million watts is enough to power about 600 homes in the U.S., the Electric Power Research Institute estimates.
An outside expert, Haresh Kamath of the Electric Power Research Institute, told the New York Times he wasn't sure how reliable fuel cells will be, although he was "glad somebody is trying to do this." A Bloom Energy representative said their fuel cells are designed to resist failure.