eBay's New Data Center Powered 100% by Fuel Cells

eBay announced it will power its flagship data center with renewable energy as its primary power source, the first company to do so.

The company is building the largest non-utility fuel cell installation in the US and although it will be tied to the grid, that’s only for backup. And it will run on biogas from landfills.

Most renewable energy installations typically supplement electricity from the grid, but eBay is integrating it into the core of its global commerce platform, incorporating 30 Bloom Energy servers into the new data center’s energy architecture.

That’s a big deal, especially in the Internet business, which has been taken to task for running its extremly energy intensive data centers on coal in How Dirty is Your Data Center. Data centers consume 1.5-2% of global electricity, growing at 12% a year.

In doing so, eBay is raising the bar for the Internet industry. And it’s greening e-commerce for its 102 million active users.  It’s also a big deal for the fuel cell industry, which has been struggling to prove itself for years.

It’s also a major test for fuel cells as a baseload energy source.  Utilities will closely watch how reliable the power is.

Bloom’s servers will power millions of transactions – more than $69 billion in merchandise volume annually. The data center will also power subsidiaries PayPal and StubHub, enabling merchants, retail partners, buyers and sellers to do greener commerce.

"Technology-led innovation is changing retail and revolutionizing how people shop and pay. We also want to revolutionize how shopping is powered. We are embracing disruptive energy technology and designing it into our core data center energy architecture. Running our data centers primarily on reliable, renewable energy, we intend to shape a future for commerce that is more environmentally sustainable at its core," says John Donahoe, President and CEO of eBay.

The 6 MW fuel cell installation is being designed and engineered into eBay’s expanded data center facility in Utah, and will be fully functional by mid-2013. Utah gets most of its energy from coal.

Each of the 30 Bloom Energy servers will generate 1.75 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity annually, and will be installed a few hundred feet from the center itself, virtually eliminating traditional utility grid losses.

This is eBay’s fifth and largest renewable energy installation. It has a 650 kilowatt (kW) solar array and a 500 kW Bloom fuel cell installation at its San Jose headquarters and a 100 kW solar array at its Denver data center. In April, eBay installed a 665 kW solar array spanning 72,000 square feet atop its  LEED- certified Utah data center.

Renewable energy now provides 15% of eBay’s total energy for its data centers.

Apple’s new mammoth data center is also deploying Bloom fuel cells, which are almost as large at 5 MW, but even that combined with 40 MW of solar, isn’t enough to provide all the energy without buying offsets.

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Comments on “”

  1. Paulson

    As far as buying/saving on eBay goes: If you see an item that you want listed in auction format, send the seller a message asking if they will accept $x to end the auction early and sell the item to you. If that doesn’t work, use a sniping service such as Bidball.com to bid for you. It’ll bid in the last few seconds, helping to save $ and avoid shill bidding. If there is a particular item that you want that is relatively rare on eBay or goes fast when one is listed, use ebuyersedge.com to set up a saved eBay search for it. You’d get an e-mail whenever a match is listed. You can use the price, category, exclude word, etc. filters to narrow down the results that you get in the e-mails. Excellent for “Buy It Now”s priced right. If the item that you’re looking for is difficult to spell, try a misspelling search site like Typojoe.com to find some deals with items that have main keywords misspelled in the title. Other interested buyers may never see them.

  2. Brent Hardy

    Disruptive change and incremental change both have a place. At our company – Extra Space Storage – we don’t have one big data center where we can concentrate sustainability efforts. Instead, we have about 900 physical locations where we run multiple programs to reduce energy usage; solar panels, daylight harvesting, and more. We have a goal to reduce energy consumption at our locations to zero.


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