Photo credit: Apple

Data Center Knowledge is reporting that Apple will soon be burning trash to partly generate the electricity necessary for their new data center in Maiden, North Carolina. The power will come from Bloom Energy’s Energy Server fuel cell “Bloom Boxes”, which will provide Apple with 4.8 megawatts of power. Each the size of a single parking space, the boxes burn biogas from landfills to generate 200-kilowatts of electricity, providing enough power to meet the needs of 160 homes or one office building.

While it would be nice to think that Apple could put the fuel cells directly on top of a nearby landfill to get the power, that’s not exactly the case. Rather, they will be paying for methane gas that has been captured, cleaned, and injected into the natural gas pipeline. Biogas is considered a renewable fuel because it is constantly being generated by the trash we throw away and bury in landfills. In addition to the nearly 5 megawatts of electricity generated by the Bloom Boxes, Apple will also be installing a 20 megawatt solar array on site.

Apple’s energy use has been in the news of late thanks to a report from Greenpeace about the carbon footprint of cloud computing, and thus their plans for fuel cells and solar panels could be seen as a way to work with environmental groups in order to be a more eco-conscious company. But Apple is not alone in researching renewable energy sources, as Microsoft is also planning to get power from a methane-burning power plant. Their plan, however, involves building their data center directly at the site of the biogas source rather than importing the fuel over a natural gas pipeline.

[via CNET]