Apple plans nation's biggest private fuel cell energy project in NC

Apr 08, 2012 By John Murawski
Apple logo

North Carolina will be home to the nation's largest private fuel cell energy project, a nonpolluting, silent power plant that will generate electricity from hydrogen.

Apple Inc. filed its plans with the N.C. Utilities Commission last week to build the 4.8-megawatt project in Maiden, about 40 miles northwest of Charlotte, N.C. That's where Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple has built a data center to support the company's iCloud online and its Siri voice-recognition software.

The fuel cell project, the nation's largest such project not built by an electric utility company, will be developed this year. It will be located on the same data complex that will host a planned 20-megawatt solar farm - the biggest ever proposed in this state.

But it's the fuel cell project that's generating buzz, eclipsing anything ever dreamed of in California, the nation's epicenter for fuel cell projects.

"That's a huge vote of confidence in fuel cells," said James Warner, policy director of the Fuel Cell and Association.

Fuel cells generate electricity through an electro-chemical process and are compared to batteries that give out power as long as they have a source of hydrogen.

They are exorbitantly expensive and in the past have been used only in experimental realms, such as NASA moon launches. The federal government offers a 30 percent tax credit, but no state incentive is available for fuel cells in North Carolina, making Apple's project all the more intriguing. Apple is also developing miniature fuel cells to power .

According to a recent report by the U.S. Information Administration, fuel cells are among the world's most expensive forms of electricity, costing $6.7 million per megawatt, which would put Apple's project in the $30 million range.

North Carolina's fuel cell exposure is limited to demonstration projects that are a tiny fraction of the size of Apple's fuel cells. Microcell Corp. is the Raleigh, N.C., company behind the demos.

According to information on Apple's website, the fuel cell facility could be in operation toward the end of the year. Beyond that information, Apple officials would not comment on the project. Nor would Bloom Energy, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company that will build it. The fuel cell modules, called Bloom Boxes, are used also by Walmart, Google, Staples, eBay, Cox Enterprises, FedEx, Bank of America, Coca-Cola, AT&T and Adobe, according to Bloom's website.

Charlotte-based Duke Energy, which is likely to buy the electricity output from Apple, referred all questions to Apple.

Apple does stand to receive bonus payments from Duke Energy if it puts clean energy on Duke's grid, offsetting electricity from conventional power plants. The amount Apple would receive for selling renewable energy certificates to Duke would be privately negotiated. Duke is required under a 2007 state law to buy electricity generated from renewable resources to meet the state's green energy targets.

Word of Apple's first dribbled out in February in Apple's corporate sustainability report. But North Carolina regulatory filings provide new details.

The facility will consist of 24 fuel cell modules. It will extract hydrogen from natural gas supplied by Piedmont Natural Gas. But it's not clear how much gas will be required.

To qualify as a renewable facility, Apple or Bloom will arrange to produce landfill methane gas or some other biogas to offset its natural gas use. The biogas supplier has not been named, but that information will have to be disclosed to win approval from the N.C. Utilities Commission.

currently has a 500,000-square-foot data center on the 11.5-acre site. Construction recently began on a second building on the campus, but whether it will be another data center or a building related to the investment is unclear.

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User comments : 55

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AWaB
3.5 / 5 (4) Apr 08, 2012
I'm usually not a fan of overpriced Apple products. However, the fuel cell is very likely the near-term future energy solution to fossil fuels. This'll add a little more to turning the tide for them.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.7 / 5 (42) Apr 08, 2012
How many bloom boxes could have been purchased for the price of Conservative America's war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq?

LuckyBrandon
3 / 5 (2) Apr 08, 2012
@vendicar - 42

:)
LENR4you
Apr 08, 2012
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Vendicar_Decarian
Apr 08, 2012
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
trentspalmer
5 / 5 (5) Apr 08, 2012
Oh this is just great. Now saving the earth will cost 3 times what it should and will require an iTunes account.
LENR4you
1 / 5 (6) Apr 08, 2012
What would Apple be today without their last fantasies? LENR is real and will soon change everything.
LENR4you
NotParker
1.9 / 5 (8) Apr 08, 2012
Poor people subsidizing rich people again!

"Apple does stand to receive bonus payments from Duke Energy if it puts clean energy on Duke's grid, offsetting electricity from conventional power plants. The amount Apple would receive for selling renewable energy certificates to Duke would be privately negotiated. Duke is required under a 2007 state law to buy electricity generated from renewable resources to meet the state's green energy targets."
NotParker
2.8 / 5 (6) Apr 08, 2012
I'm usually not a fan of overpriced Apple products. However, the fuel cell is very likely the near-term future energy solution to fossil fuels. This'll add a little more to turning the tide for them.


Fuel cells like the Bloom box use fossil fuels like natural gas.

Tennex
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 08, 2012
a nonpolluting, silent power plant that will generate electricity from hydrogen
...produced with polluting noisy way somewhere else under consumption of much higher amount of energy, than would be otherwise required... Such project fits my picture of the contemporary world..
NotParker
2 / 5 (5) Apr 08, 2012
"It will extract hydrogen from natural gas supplied by Piedmont Natural Gas"
Pressure2
3 / 5 (2) Apr 08, 2012
Quote from article: "The fuel cell project, the nation's largest such project not built by an electric utility company, will be developed this year. It will be located on the same data complex that will host a planned 20-megawatt solar farm - the biggest ever proposed in this state."

It is also possible that this fuel cell could get its hydrogen from the electricity generated by the 20 megawatt solar farm.

NotParker
1 / 5 (4) Apr 08, 2012
It is also possible that this fuel cell could get its hydrogen from the electricity generated by the 20 megawatt solar farm.


Getting hydrogen that way is extremely inefficient.

But thats what you get when poor people are forced to subsidize trillion dollar companies pet projects.

PS "Hydrogen from natural gas, used to replace e.g. gasoline, emits more CO2 than the gasoline it would replace, and so is no help in reducing greenhouse gases."

http://en.wikiped...of_water
NotParker
1 / 5 (4) Apr 08, 2012
What a perfect "green" project.

1) It squanders millions on unnecessary "green" technology.

2) It kills off some poor people who are subsidizing the Bloom Box as they choose to not run their A/C units this summer because their electricity bill has taken a big jump to pay for this stupidity.

3) It produces more CO2 than a diesel or NG generator.

4) Rich Apple gets a big chucnk of unearned cash.

5) Greenies get to feel good about producing more CO2 and squandering millions.

6) It really annoys people who know how these projects really work (don't work actually).

7) If the power goes out, rich Apple employees ears are spared the noise from a much cheaper, slightly noisier NG generator.
Pressure2
3.4 / 5 (5) Apr 08, 2012
NotParker: You are overlooking the fact that using solar power to create hydrogen is CO2 neutral when used in a fuel cell. It is also a great way to store solar power for the short term with out batteries.
NotParker
1.7 / 5 (6) Apr 08, 2012
NotParker: You are overlooking the fact that using solar power to create hydrogen is CO2 neutral when used in a fuel cell. It is also a great way to store solar power for the short term with out batteries.


1) They aren't planning to create hydrogen using solar.

2) Where would you store this hydrogen?

3) How much would the hydrogen storage cost?
Pressure2
3.4 / 5 (5) Apr 08, 2012
1. You and I do not know what they plan doing with all the energy created by this solar power plant.

2. Hydrogen can be stored in similar manners to natural gas for cloudy days or even weeks of use.

3. Sure it would be and added cost. Nearly every improvement starts out as an added cost.
Tennex
2.3 / 5 (3) Apr 08, 2012
NotParker: You are overlooking the fact that using solar power to create hydrogen is CO2 neutral when used in a fuel cell. It is also a great way to store solar power for the short term with out batteries.
This is very big IF, because the solar energy and storage is very material hungry and the production of these materials and their maintenance is not carbon neutral. In addition, it consumes a huge amount of raw materials, like the indium, the supplies of which are even lower, than the supplies of fossil fuels. If you would check the hard numbers, the total TCO of solar cells and their hydrogen infrastructure, you would realize, that whole this experiments must be subsidized heavily just from fossil carbon economy. It's not even sustainable, no to say about savings of carbon dioxide pollution. I do appreciate, the USA want to "save the world" in this way, but they should invest into cold fusion instead. IMO this project is the one whole big mistake.
Tennex
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 08, 2012
What happens by now is, the USA is short of crude oil supplies, but it has enough of earth gas. So it invests into switching its economy into earth gas economy. I don't quite understand, why the hydrogen is produced during this at all, because the earth gas can be liquefied and handled more easily and safely, if nothing else. For example, when pressurized hydrogen is released, it heats itself and ignites spontaneously, whereas methane not. And its energy density is way higher, than at the case of hydrogen. The carbon dioxide, which would be released with its burning must be released during production of hydrogen as well. The conversion of earth gas into hydrogen with water vapour is not nuclear transform, the carbon from methane must escape somewhere in this process - together with huge portion of energy, which could be otherwise utilized directly. IMO this project is one whole big nonsense, based on hydrogen economy dream.
Burnerjack
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 08, 2012
I wonder what would have been achieved if the same effort and money had been put towards large scale geothermal. Clean, inexaustible (in theory), baseline geothermal.
Pressure2
3 / 5 (4) Apr 08, 2012
Tennex: Sure CO2 is released in the manufacturing of solar panels. But you got to start some where, for every solar panel produced less CO2 is released in the future. In theory eventually nearly all of our energy could come from renewable sources and added CO2 would approach zero.

Oil, gas and coal sources of energy are finite. We are using up in one year what it took nature millions of years to produce.

Let's face it, either we start down the road of switching to renewables or future generations will some day curse the ground we walked on.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.4 / 5 (38) Apr 08, 2012
"Fuel cells like the Bloom box use fossil fuels like natural gas." - ParkerTard

And have a lower carbon footprint than traditional alternative carbon based fuels.

To a Tard like you, the progress must be quite upsetting.

GrandM4x
3 / 5 (2) Apr 08, 2012
I'm usually not a fan of overpriced Apple products. However, the fuel cell is very likely the near-term future energy solution to fossil fuels. This'll add a little more to turning the tide for them.


How is using natural gas to produce hydrogen to produce electricity a step to get rid of fossil fuels.

Oh wait, we could produce hydrogen from electricity and produce clean electricity with it. Sighh...
NotParker
1.6 / 5 (7) Apr 08, 2012
And have a lower carbon footprint than traditional alternative carbon based fuels.


No As I said earlier, they have a higher footprint.

"Hydrogen from natural gas, used to replace e.g. gasoline, emits more CO2 than the gasoline it would replace, and so is no help in reducing greenhouse gases."
NotParker
1 / 5 (4) Apr 08, 2012
future generations will some day curse the ground we walked on.


Germany is starting up two new Brown Coal power plants this year because they squandered billions on "renewables" that were grotesquely expensive.

Todays children will curse their parents for squandering trillions on technology that doesn't work.
JAZZBO
5 / 5 (1) Apr 08, 2012
Hydrogen can be virtually free. Splitting water with the excess power from the 20 MW solar set up would elementary and storage would consist of propane storage tanks. Closed loop system. Why would you set up fuel cells that run on hydrogen and then use massive amounts of NG. This article makes no sense.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.1 / 5 (35) Apr 08, 2012
"How is using natural gas to produce hydrogen to produce electricity a step to get rid of fossil fuels." - Grand

A Erg of electric power generated from natural gas requires less CO2 output than producing it from the burning of coal, or even natural gas.

Vendicar_Decarian
0.1 / 5 (35) Apr 08, 2012
Yes, but the efficiency of conversion is reasonably low.

"Splitting water with the excess power from the 20 MW solar set up would elementary and storage would consist of propane storage tanks." - Jazzbo

Do the combined inefficiencies of production, compressed storage and consumption exceed that of direct PV conversion?

Nope. Because PV conversion has to be done in both instances.

Direct disassociation of water via solar is being experimented with, but right now the inefficiencies are very high.
packrat
1 / 5 (1) Apr 09, 2012
It seems that everyone is overlooking the huge data center there. They will probably be using quite a bit of power just running that.

As far as conversion costs go if they do decide to make hydrogen there on site with the solar system don't forget it allows the storage for use when the solar plant is not putting anything out at night. Depending on their current electricity bills and I can imagine they are pretty huge, the system they are building will be cheaper on the budget sheet once it's paying for itself. I would love to have a home size bloom box instead of paying the electric company. Gas is cheaper and has been for awhile around here.
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (1) Apr 09, 2012
"To qualify as a renewable facility, Apple or Bloom will arrange to produce landfill methane gas or some other biogas to offset its natural gas use."

As long as they do this in sufficient amounts to offset the CO2 from natural gas, it would still be CO2 neutral.
Pressure2
3 / 5 (2) Apr 09, 2012
I'm usually not a fan of overpriced Apple products. However, the fuel cell is very likely the near-term future energy solution to fossil fuels. This'll add a little more to turning the tide for them.


How is using natural gas to produce hydrogen to produce electricity a step to get rid of fossil fuels.

Oh wait, we could produce hydrogen from electricity and produce clean electricity with it. Sighh...

Sighh,sighh, sighh; wake up, how much CO2 does creating electricity from wind, solar and geothermal produce?
Pressure2
3 / 5 (4) Apr 09, 2012
future generations will some day curse the ground we walked on.


Germany is starting up two new Brown Coal power plants this year because they squandered billions on "renewables" that were grotesquely expensive.

Todays children will curse their parents for squandering trillions on technology that doesn't work.

Wrong again NotParker, it is because they are shutting down their nuclear power plants. They are still investing in renewables as far as I know.
NotParker
2 / 5 (4) Apr 09, 2012

Wrong again NotParker, it is because they are shutting down their nuclear power plants.


2007: "Yet over 20 coal-fired power plants -- major producers of greenhouse gases -- are planned for Germany."

http://www.dw.de/...,00.html
NotParker
1 / 5 (3) Apr 09, 2012

A Erg of electric power generated from natural gas requires less CO2 output than producing it from the burning of coal, or even natural gas.



Wow. VD thinks using natural gas for electricity produces less CO2 than natural gas.

Shale gas is a great fossil fuel. Cheap, plentiful, clean.

There is no need for rich companies to get massive subsidies from poor people to build "Bloom Boxes" that produce very expensive electricity when a normal Natural Gas power plant does it for way less money and produces less CO2.

NotParker
1 / 5 (3) Apr 09, 2012
Now I remember why Apple is doing something so wasteful and stupid, while collecting subsidies from poor people.

Al Gore.

"Gore has personally invested in a range of clean technologies. Hes a partner in the venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, where he is part of a team in search of green investments that will earn him and his partners riches that dwarf his compensation as an Apple director."

http://www.thedai...ain.html
Pressure2
5 / 5 (3) Apr 09, 2012
Yes you were wrong NotParker, you implied Germany was wasting its money on renewable sources of energy. Germany in going into renewable sources of energy in a BIG way. The reason for the coal plants is so they can shut down their nuclear power plants. It has nothing to do with their renewable energy policy.

http://en.wikiped..._Germany

"The share of electricity produced from renewable energy in Germany has increased from 6.3 percent of the national total in 2000 to over 20 percent in the first half of 2011.[1] In 2010, investments totaling 26 billion euros were made in Germanys renewable energies sector. According to official figures, some 370,000 people in Germany were employed in the renewable energy sector in 2010, - - -"
NotParker
1 / 5 (3) Apr 09, 2012
YThe reason for the coal plants is so they can shut down their nuclear power plants.


The story about 20 planned coal plants was from 2007 before the anti-nuclear insanity took over.

Steel Mills Closing

"For the Krefeld plant, the cost of a kilowatt hour of electricity has tripled since 2000."

"There is no sign yet of the green economic miracle that the federal government promised would accompany Germany's new energy strategy. On the contrary, many manufacturers of wind turbines and solar panels complain that business is bad and are cutting jobs. Some solar companies have already gone out of business. The environmental sector faces a number of problems, especially -- and ironically -- those stemming from high energy prices."

http://www.spiege...,00.html
NotParker
1 / 5 (3) Apr 09, 2012

There is no sign yet of the green economic miracle that the federal government promised would accompany Germany's new energy strategy.


"The metal industry, long an important sector in Germany, is already migrating to countries with cheaper electricity.

The Düsseldorf-based conglomerate GEA closed its zinc plant in nearby Datteln. Aurubis, the Hamburg-based company that is Europe's largest copper producer, is critical of higher energy costs and has announced plans to invest abroad, especially in Asia and South America. According to a recent survey by the DIHK, almost one in five industrial companies plans to shift capacities abroad -- or has already done so. The study also finds that almost 60 percent fear power outages or voltage fluctuations in the power grid, because wind and solar power are still too unreliable."
Pressure2
4.3 / 5 (3) Apr 09, 2012
NotParker, what's new about steel, copper, manufaturing plants, etc moving out of Germany, a high labor cost country? Heck they have been moving out of the US for decades which has low labor and utilities cost.

Pressure2
5 / 5 (3) Apr 09, 2012
Notice two things here NotParker, doing away with nuclear power has been high on the political agenda in recent decades and renewable sources of energy supply MORE energy in Germany than nuclear power currently does, over 20% vs. 17.7%. Again it has NOTHING to do with the failure of renewables.

http://en.wikiped..._Germany

"Nuclear power in Germany accounted for 17.7% of national electricity supply in 2011, compared to 22.4% in 2010 [1]. - - - - It has been high on the political agenda in recent decades, with continuing debates about when the technology should be phased out. The topic received renewed attention at the start of 2007 due to the political impact of the Russia-Belarus energy dispute and in 2011 after the Fukushima I nuclear accidents.[2]
On 30 May 2011, Germany formally announced plans to abandon nuclear energy completely within 11 years. - - - - "
TrinityComplex
not rated yet Apr 09, 2012
While renewable energy is being figured out, I'm curious why something discovered in 2009 hasn't been standardized in coal power plants:
http://phys.org/n...717.html
Granted, it doesn't offer many details, but has anyone heard anything more about this? Seems like it would be beneficial for coal fired power plants to be able to produce more energy on less coal, but I haven't heard of one instance of this being done, and I've been looking for it.
NotParker
1 / 5 (2) Apr 09, 2012
NotParker, what's new about steel, copper, manufaturing plants, etc moving out of Germany,


The tripling of energy costs in 11 years.
Pressure2
5 / 5 (1) Apr 09, 2012
Thank goodness Germany is switching to renewables, they should have started earlier.

It would be nice to have a source but assuming you are correct so have oil prices increase by a factor of 6 or more along with natural gas price Germany buys from Russia. Germany pays about $125 a barrel for oil and Russia is probaly also gouging them on the price of natural gas. I would also guess closing down their nuclear power plants are also an added factor. That would be the right thing to do if one was in my backyard but the wrong thing to do if it was in your's.

About 6 time higher than in 1999.
http://www.wtrg.com/prices.htm

Natural gas prices, as with other commodity prices, are mainly driven by supply and demand fundamentals. However, natural gas prices may also be linked to the price of crude oil and/or petroleum products, especially in continental Europe.[1]

http://en.wikiped...s_prices

NotParker
1 / 5 (2) Apr 09, 2012
oil prices increase by a factor of 6 or more


Does Germany use oil for electricity?

NG is a lot cheaper thanks to Shale Gas.

The Feed in tariff for solar electricity alone is 24.43 ct/kWh. I believe that is about 4x what I pay where I live.

Average price for electrcity in Germany. 36.48 US cents per kWh.

Insanity.

Its good that Germans are letting the greens destroy their economy. It will be a lesson on what not to do.
Pressure2
4.5 / 5 (2) Apr 10, 2012
The Germans are doing quite well thank you!

I keep asking you for "sources" and since you do not supply them it leads me to believe you are getting your information from some extreme right wing sources like Fox News. Now they do usually give you information that is in the "Ball Park" but they nearly ALWAYS leave out information that does not support their political agenda.

And you sir are a fountain of this of "slanted" missinformation, that is why you are so down on green energy.

By the way natural gas prices in the US are extremely cheap right now. A word of advice, DO NOT plan your future around these prices. There is a good chance they will increase by a factor of 10 within 20 next years!

Natural gas is finite, green energy is FREE forever!

Pressure2
5 / 5 (1) Apr 10, 2012
The link below is a good source for electric rates in many countries around the world. I notice the rates appear to be higher for countries that are switching to a more green source of energy. What we do not know is why the price is higher.

Is it higher because of the switch to pay for the start up money need or is it that the high prices are forcing the switch? Either way it is a good thing in the long run.

A little pain for long term gain, something short sighted individual cannot comprehend.

http://en.wikiped..._pricing
Pressure2
5 / 5 (1) Apr 10, 2012
The figures on this page are old from 2004. But according to these figures more than half of Germany's electricity comes OIL and NG, most of that produced in Russia.

NotParker do not compare the price of NG in America with the price in Europe. As shown in a previous posting NG prices in Europe pretty much track crude oil prices at $125 a barrel today.

http://ec.europa....e_en.pdf
NotParker
1 / 5 (2) Apr 10, 2012
http://www.euronu...-ger.htm

"In 2010 the gross electric power generation in Germany totalled 621 billion kWh. A major proportion of the electricity supply is based on lignite (23.7 %), nuclear energy (22.6 %) and hard coal (18.7 %). Natural gas has a share of 13.6 %. Renewables (wind, water, biomass, photovoötaic) account for 16.5 %."

Oil is not on the graph, although it might be part of the "other 4.9%" category.

NotParker
1 / 5 (3) Apr 10, 2012
A little pain for long term gain


A lot of pain for a lot of long term pain.

NotParker
1 / 5 (3) Apr 10, 2012
NotParker do not compare the price of NG in America with the price in Europe.


Thats the fault of Europeans environmentalists fighting so hard to save renewables. They are deliberately keeping the [rice of gas so high by fighting against European shale gas ... while EU countries burn brown coal.

But there may be hope.

http://thegwpf.or...ria.html

You should read about the NAZI roots of the eco movement.

http://notrickszo...n-roots/
NotParker
1 / 5 (3) Apr 10, 2012
TBut according to these figures more than half of Germany's electricity comes OIL and NG


Well, your chart shows oil produced 10TWh out of 607TWh total electricity.

1.6%
NotParker
1 / 5 (3) Apr 10, 2012

Natural gas is finite, green energy is FREE forever!



Many coal, nuclear, hydro and NG power plants will last 50 years or more.

The lifespan for renewables is much shorter. Gear boxes fail after 5-7 years. Maintenance for offshore wind is very, very expensive.

Green isn't free. You have to rebuild the infrastructure every 20 years or so.

And Germany's competitors have much cheaper energy.

There is 200 years of NG that is easy to get. Japan is already drilling for methane hydrates.
Pressure2
not rated yet Apr 10, 2012
TBut according to these figures more than half of Germany's electricity comes OIL and NG


Well, your chart shows oil produced 10TWh out of 607TWh total electricity.

1.6%

As usual you only quote the information that supports your agenda. In a previous posting you made the same mistake, you only mentioned the source of electricity PRODUCED in Germany. Germany buy about 1/2 its electricity from sources outside the country. When that is figured in about 1/2 comes from OIL and NG. You need to open up your mind to ALL sources of information.

Germany's switch to green sources is already helping them keep their electric rates lower than they would be.
Pressure2
not rated yet Apr 10, 2012
Scroll down just a little ways on this site and you will see that more than 1/2 the electricity Germany CONSUMES came from OIL and NG as recently as 2004.

http://ec.europa....e_en.pdf
Pressure2
not rated yet Apr 10, 2012
Correction: The energy information at this link refers to TOTAL energy consumption NOT just electrical consumption.

http://ec.europa....e_en.pdf

So NotParker your figures on the use of OIL and NG to produce electricity in Germany are correct.
NotParker
1 / 5 (2) Apr 10, 2012
Germany buy about 1/2 its electricity from sources outside the country.


Germany is a net importer usually (the nucela shutdown may change that), but buys cheaper electricity when it is appropriate.

"Germany remained an electricity exporter during the first half of 2011. However, electricity imports significantly increased, the Federal Association of the Energy and Water Industry (BDEW) reported.

In the first half of 2011, Germany exported roughly 29 billion kWh compared to 31 billion kWh in the same period last year, BDEW said. Imports rose significantly from 20 billion kWh to 25 billion kWh, leading to an export surplus of 4 billion kWh after a surplus of 11 billion kWh in the first half of 2010. "

http://www.german.../?p=7218

Most of those imports are nuclear from France, coal from Czech.
mystical0rb
not rated yet Apr 17, 2012
Returning to the topic of the article -- in comparing the BloomEnergy ES-5700 Energy Server data sheet with a Peterson Power Systems XQ5200 Natural Gas Generator Data Sheet, the fuel consumption for the BloomEnergy Server is approximately 58% (mmBTU/hr per kWe) of a standard commercial NG generator.

It also doesn't seem like there will be any increased consumption with increased scale for this solid oxide fuel cell (based on the two published energy server data sheets).

I respect that Apple has chosen to use fuel cells in a way that fits into today's energy infrastructure. I'd call it a step in the right direction.