eBay to Power Utah Data Center With Renewable Fuel Cells

The biogas fuel cells will be the primary power source for the facility, which will run transactions on eBay’s online auction site, as well as its PayPal and StubHub businesses.

eBay will leverage environmentally friendly fuel cells to power an extension of its data center in Utah and using the electrical grid only as backup.

eBay officials said June 21 that they plan to use 30 biogas fuel cells as the only power source for the new facility, which is expected to go online in the middle of 2013 and will represent the latest effort by the online auction giant to embrace renewable energy to power its facilities.

The fuel cells, from Bloom Energy, will be situated a few hundred feet from the data center€”which will essentially eliminate power losses that are the norm on utility grids€”and will generate 1.75 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity every year. The Bloom installation will offer a combined capacity of six megawatts.

The cells will run all day every day, replacing the backup generators and UPS components that are used less than 1 percent of the time, and will power not only the eBay transaction platform, but also on other businesses, including its PayPal payment service and StubHub online ticket site, the officials said.

€œWe believe the future of commerce can be greener,€ eBay President and CEO John Donahoe said in a statement. €œTechnology-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.€

The rapidly growing amount of power consumed by data centers across the country has become an increasing focus of tech companies and federal agencies alike over the past decade. That attention has grown in recent years with the rise of companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon€”as well as the expanding businesses of established vendors like Apple and Microsoft€”which are building massive and dense data centers to power their Web-based businesses.

An increasing number of tech firms are looking for ways to reduce the energy generated at their facilities, both to save money and to reduce their impact on the environment. Most recently, Apple officials in May announced that by the end of the year, its 500,000-square-foot data center in North Carolina€”which runs Apple€™s iCloud service and other businesses€”will be powered entirely by renewable resources, including solar power and biogas fuel cells. That green IT effort will expand to Apple€™s existing data center in California and a new one the company is building in Oregon, officials said.

eBay officials said what they€™re doing in Utah is in line with their other green IT efforts elsewhere. The online auction company already runs a 650 kilowatt solar array and a 500 kilowatt Bloom fuel cell installation at its headquarters in San Jose, Calif., and a 100 kilowatt solar array at a data center in Denver.

In addition, eBay in April built a 665 kilowatt solar array that spans 72,000 square feet on top of its existing data center in Utah.