Ebay announced that it will expand the usage of Bloom Energy Cells at their Utah data center. The increase to thirty fuel cells will allow the green tech to become the facilities primary power source with the standard electric grid as its backup. Bloom Energy Fuel Cells use a solid oxide ceramic material as an electrolyte. It requires an initial burst of energy to heat the system to 800 C and a reformed methanol fuel be placed on one side of the fuel cell. This attracts oxygen ions (air) into the system where the ions are stripped of their electrons, thus creating electricity. In theory, once the system gets started it can provide the energy needed to heat itself up and provide electricity to the facility. The question is: does this make good business sense for Ebay?
My gut feeling is yes. Having your own power plant next door does allow for greater efficiency that is often lost when electricity travels long distances. The growing trend seems to be that more and more businesses want to have more control over their power consumption. Switching to an alternative energy source has a plethora of benefits, not least of which is the benefit to the Earth that we all live on, but also endearing yourself to the public and locking down the variable of power costs. When even Walmart is has started a program of having wind turbines in their parking lots, it has to be an effective move.
Well, most businesses can’t afford a wind turbine or a 800,000 dollar fuel cell, but of course there are plenty of smaller things a business can do to save power. Talk to an IT consultant about increasing your techs efficiency. One simple trick I’ve learned over the years is changing your background on your phone or computer to something black. OLED, LED backlit LCD screens and older CRT monitors consumer less energy when the background is black. An informal study found that an OLED phone saves about 20% more energy when it simply had its wallpaper changed to black. That’s not much, but considering many people have multiple phones and computers, it adds up.