In a filing with the North Carolina Utility Commission, Apple reveals that it will double its fuel cell installation to 10 megawatts, making it now the largest data center fuel cell installation in the world (eBay had previously held the largest installation for its Utah data center).
Interestingly, Apple doesn’t need all that power and will sell power back to the utility. It’s a fascinating move in that it cements the role of distributed power generation as an asset that can be monetized, and creates yet another flexible incentive for microgrids to be built. Essentially, any corporation that wants a bit of electricity security could view on site power generation as a tool that has cash flow value in addition to its electricity generation. No doubt, utilities aren’t in love with this trend and will argue that they’re responsible for power transmission and distribution upkeep. And should be compensated adequately. But for now, Apple will get what it wants–the ability to have lots of extra power on site should it want to further expand its data center. I also suspect that a larger fuel cell installation gives it some economies of scale and may even lower its electricity rates a small amount.