EBay data center to be powered by fuel cell technology

EBay has hatched plans to build a new data center that will draw its power from the green technology of fuel cells rather than the national power grid.

As reported by James Glanz in the New York Times, and as noted in the newpaper's "Bits" technology blog, EBay has hatched plans to build a new data center that will draw its power from the green technology of fuel cells rather than the national power grid, as a means of reducing corporate dependence on harmful emissions-producing coal plants.

Located in South Jordan, Utah, the new data center will use about six million watts of power generated by the on-site fuel cells, which are a cleaner and more efficient source of energy than coal. EBay will additionally operate its PayPal online payment service out of the South Jordan facility.

As noted by Computerworld, the Silicon Valley-based firm Bloom Energy will install the center's 30 biogas fuel cells, harboring a combined capacity of 6 megawatts. The cells can be thought of as large batteries with a charge maintained by the hydrocarbon energy contained in natural gas; the biogas will come from agricultural waste. According to a press release, expected to be fully on-line by mid-2013, each of the facility's 30 energy servers will generate 1.75 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually. The fuel-cell-powered facility's cost has not been disclosed.

The new facility will double the size of an existing data center. The standard power grid will serve mainly as a source of backup power. However, as soberly pointed out by the Times' blog, "the fuel cells will account for less than 15 percent of the energy needs of all eBay data centers around the country -- a clue that the industry is likely to remain deeply dependent on the grid and its energy mix indefinitely."

The following video from Cisco provides further information about fuel cell technology for data centers.

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