Greener Apple Data Centre & BMW Drives with cleaner fuel technologies

Greener Apple  Data Centre & BMW Drives with cleaner fuel technologies

Apple will soon be running the largest non-utility fuel cell installation in the United States with 50 fuel cells installed at its flagship data centre in North Carolina, which will be 100% powered by clean energy. And BMW is coming in for more acclaim for systematically reducing energy use in facilities through energy-efficient materials, products, and processes; and in vehicles through use of regenerative energy technologies. Green Biz has the cleaner energy stories. Read more

Apple hosts largest private fuel cell installation in U.S.

By (11 December 2012):

Apple is doubling the number of fuel cells it will use to power its $1 billion data center in North Carolina, making it the largest non-utility fuel cell installation in the U.S.

The company is having 50 fuel cells installed for a total of 10 megawatts (MW) of capacity.

Apple’s announcement eclipses eBay’s, which will power its flagship data center 100 percent by fuel cells, and 30 fuel cells will do that.

Both companies are using Bloom Energy fuel cells that get their energy from biogas piped in from nearby landfills.

The massive North Carolina data center is also making extensive use of solar PV at 25 MW. With the two technologies combined, about 60 percent of the energy will come from its own renewable sources, and Apple will purchase the rest from sources that are 100 percent powered by clean energy.

Apple says all three of its U.S. data centers will run solely on renewables, including ones planned in Prineville, Ore. and Newark, Calif. Its goal is to achieve net zero energy for corporate facilities worldwide — its facilities in Cork, Ireland, Munich, Germany, Austin, Tex. and Sacramento, Calif. run 100 percent on renewable energy, the company says.

Still, Apple remains the subject of criticism, getting a mediocre ranking from Climate Counts on its lack of attention to measuring and disclosing emissions, and has long been at the bottom of its peers in the How Dirty is Your Data? analysis by Greenpeace.

The company rose a bit this July in Greenpeace’s report, A Clean Energy Roadmap for Apple, but got poor marks for its energy sourcing strategy.

After stinging criticism on its supply chain in China, Apple announced this week that it will spend $100 million to start manufacturing Macintosh computers in the U.S. The Macintosh product line, however, makes up a tiny portion of Apple’s revenue.



How BMW is driving smart energy strategies

By Christine Hertzog

Published December 19, 2012


BMW recently convened a group of transportation, electric vehicle (EV) and energy thought leaders in Silicon Valley to participate in a dialogue with their senior executives about sustainability, energy and mobility services. The discussion also focused on V2G (vehicle-to-grid) integrations pondering new smart grid convergences with sustainability principles.

BMW’s guiding view is that sustainability along the entire value chain is inseparable from their corporate self-image. The company has been systematically reducing energy use in facilities through energy-efficient materials, products, and processes; and in vehicles through use of regenerative energy technologies.

The production facilities for its electric BMW i cars will incorporate renewable energy. Industrial plants and processes are major electricity consumers.  Adding renewables to their energy mix reduces reliance on fossil fuels, and in Germany, helps address the looming retirement of that nation’s nuclear fleet as well.  Co-located generation with consumption also reduces the need for build-outs of the transmission infrastructure and eliminates the energy losses that would otherwise occur in long distance, high voltage transmission.

All of these activities merit commendation, but the discussion group’s consensus was that creating programs that encouraged BMW dealerships to adopt renewable energy production and energy–efficient building technologies and processes would be an even more powerful means to visibly demonstrate commitments to sustainable practices.

Since many of BMW’s customers fall into the affluent and green categories, rooftop and parking lot solar installations and energy-efficient lighting could reinforce the brand’s image — and particularly with the new all-electric BMW models. BMW doesn’t own dealerships nor their real estate, but some outside-of-the-box thinking combined with that strong corporate commitment to sustainability could yield surprising innovations.

For instance, car manufacturers, like GM, have become financial institutions to structure car loans for customers. Could BMW create their own green bank to help dealers finance renewable energy and/or energy efficiency investments? Could they help dealers in specific states like California, which continue to enhance building codes for energy-efficient operations, with guidance on how to leverage technologies to save electricity costs?

There are no easy answers, and BMW has to make money at the end of the day, so any programs targeted to dealers have to show some positive impact to the corporate bottom line.  However, helping dealers save money on operating costs by reducing energy use does contribute to the corporation’s sustainability philosophy and brand values.

However, there’s another possibility for BMW to consider that integrates the principles of sustainability with their business models and has direct benefits to grid modernization. EV batteries are depleted over time but still have potential for other energy storage applications once their useful auto life is over. Community energy storage (CES) and home energy storage can potentially repurpose used EV batteries for supply during localized power outages to deliver grid resiliency. Used EV batteries could also supply electricity to homes during peak times to reduce grid loads and improve grid reliability. One electric utility, AEP, has already piloted community energy storage with used EV batteries.

There are many more questions than answers about repurposing EV batteries, and several studies are focused on providing those answers. A car manufacturer like BMW could think about batteries from a complete sustainable product lifecycle (cradle-to-cradle) perspective, and use battery technologies that have not only the best performance for autos, but the best performance for home energy storage or CES use.

Beyond battery technology itself, there’s a need to determine the best business models to cost-effectively repurpose EV batteries.  Could BMW innovations extend beyond sustainable product design to sustainable business models for repurposed EV batteries that create compelling economic value for their EV customers, dealers, utilities and help deliver grid resiliency and increased reliability?  It’s an intriguing thought.


Christine Hertzog is a consultant, author, and professional explainer focused on Smart Grid technologies and solutions.  She provides strategic advisory services to startups and established companies that include corporate, market, and funding development.


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