Confirmed: Bloom Energy to power iCloud cell farm

Itćs been officially confirmed today that Apple will use cutting-edge, power-efficient, eco-friendly fuel cells from California-based Bloom Energy startup to power its huge iCloud data center located in Maiden, North Carolina.

Hopefully this move will appease Greenpeace, whose recent report titled How Clean Is Your Cloud slammed Apple over the company’s use of “19th-century coal energy” for its data centers…

Bloom Energy CEO K.R. Sridhar confirmed the news in an interview with CNET:

Apple is an existing customer and they will use our fuel cells in their North Carolina data center.

As I explained in my recent article over at 9to5Mac, these cells dubbed Bloom Boxes are 67 percent cleaner than a typical coal-fired power plant or the grid because they produce electricity from natural gas or biogas.

According to Apple’s website, company facilities in Sacramento, Austin, Cork and Munich are 100 percent powered by renewable energy sources. The iCloud data center in North Carolina is a different story, though.

The CEO notes that no energy is lost over transmission lines as happens with the grid. Specifically, generating power from a natural gas fuel cell reduces carbon emissions by about 40 percent to 50 percent compared to the U.S. grid.

Costing between $700,000 and $800,000 and taking about as much room as a parking space, these fuel cells can generate 100 kilowatts of electric power each.

Sunnyvale California-headquartered Bloom Energy is also in talks to build a 30 MW fuel cell farm consisting of 300 Bloom Boxes in Delaware. For more on Bloom Energy’s next-gen fuel cell tech, check out an awesome in-depth article by GigaOM.


Apparently, Apple intends on using Bloom Boxes for their five-megawatt fuel cell installation. Apple’s 2012 Environmental Update bills the structure as the nation’s biggest non-utility fuel cell installation. Per official plans, it will be located right next to the iCloud facility.

Bloom Energy was originally called “Ion America” when it was founded back in 2002, but got rechristened as Bloom Energy in 2006. It’s interesting that the company was funded by venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins.

If the name rings a bell, it’s because Kleiner Perkins was behind a $200 million fund dubbed “iFund” that invested in startups focused on iPhone software development. The fund helped incubate early iPhone game developers like Ngmoco, itself founded by former Electronic Arts executive Neil Young in July 2008. Ngmoco later got acquired by Japan-based DeNA for a cool $400 million.

Bloom Boxes generate less heat than energy cells used by the US Army so it comes as no surprise that Former Secretary of State Colin Powell is a board member since 2009.

Conspicuously, Powell is also a limited partner for Kleiner Perkins.

The Bloom Boxes are already providing clean energy for several big corporations, such as Bank of America (500 kW), Coca-Cola (500 kW), FedEx (500 kW), Staples (300 kW), Cox Enterprises, Walmart (800 kW), eBay (500 kW) and Google (400 kW).

With the Obama administration putting clean and renewable energy sources on the map, Bloom Boxes are hot pieces of equipment and as such the perfect fit for a demanding client like Apple.

Hopefully, Greenpeace will takes note of this in their next report.

Feel free to chime in with your thoughts down in the comments.