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EBay unveils new plans for fuel cell-powered data centre

Online auction giant eBay is to power the next phase of its flagship Utah data centre with fuel cells, the company has revealed.

Using fuel cells from Bloom Energy, the 6MW installation will provide the primary energy source for the data centre, with the electricity grid providing back up power. According to eBay, the data centre will be the US’ largest non-utility fuel cell project.

The fuel cells themselves will be powered by biogas derived from renewable organic waste.

John Donahoe, chief executive of eBay, said: “We are embracing disruptive energy technology and designing it into our core data centre energy architecture. Running our data centres primarily on reliable, renewable energy, we intend to shape a future for commerce that is more environmentally sustainable at its core.”

Expected to be fully functional by mid-2013, the 6MW installation forms part of eBay’s expansion of its data centre in Utah. Each of the 30 Bloom Energy servers will generate 1.75 million kWh of electricity annually, and will be installed a few hundred feet from the centre itself, which eBay says will virtually eliminate traditional utility grid losses.

The company said that it “will use the Bloom fuel cells—which generate on-site power 24 hours a day, 365 days a year—to replace the large and expensive backup generators and UPS [uninterruptible power system] components that are historically utilised less than 1% of the year.”

In addition to eBay’s auction business, the data centre also will power activity across eBay's other commerce platforms, including PayPal and StubHub.

The new Bloom Energy project will be eBay’s fifth and largest renewable energy installation. Currently the company operates a 650 kW solar array and a 500 kW Bloom fuel cell installation at its San Jose headquarters, as well as a 100 kW solar array at its Denver data centre. In April of this year, the company installed a 665 kW solar array spanning 72,000 square feet atop its existing Utah data centre.
 

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