Apple, Home Depot Turn to Bloom Energy As Its Tech Advances
Fortune, June 24, 2016
When Apple’s new massive campus, dubbed the Spaceship, opens for thousands of its employees next year in Cupertino, Calif., a small part of it will be powered by rows of big silver boxes containing fuel cells that generate energy through a chemical reaction.
The energy technology was developed and manufactured just a few miles away from Apple’s one-mile wide, still unfinished campus by the 15 year-old Silicon Valley company called Bloom Energy, Fortune has learned. Neither Apple nor Bloom Energy would comment on the Cupertino fuel cell project.
The substantial project, at 4 megawatts, is a big deal for Bloom Energy, a company that’s seen major hype, a bevvy of critics, and a steady list of customers. Apple’s adoption of the energy technology is also an important endorsement of fuel cell technology, which has slowly gained some traction with a handful of global brands as an alternative to companies simply plugging their buildings into the power grid.
In addition, fuel cells can emit fewer greenhouse gases compared to grid power. Bloom Energy’s fuel cells can use natural gas, which pollutes less than burning coal, along with even “biogas” which comes from collecting methane from decomposing organic matter like on a hog or cattle farm, a waste water treatment plant, or a landfill.
Retail giant Home Depot, too, has been installing Bloom Energy’s new fuel cells behind some of its buildings. On a visit to the Home Depot store in Westbury, N.Y., an hour outside Manhattan, earlier this year, I checked out the shining, compact row of boxy Bloom Energy’s fuel cells outside. There’s only eight refrigerator-sized boxes at the site, but they provide much of the energy needed to run the store around the clock.
By the end 2016, Home Depot plans to power 10% of its stores, at 200 locations, with fuel cells from Bloom Energy. The move is part of a plan for Home Depot to invest in batteries, solar panels, and other ways to be more creative about cleaner, cheaper and more efficient power. It’s also part of a strategic plan for the retail giant to be greener.