The energy industry and the communications industry are getting quite cozy these days, and no wonder. Information technology and telecom companies like Google, Apple, Sprint and Microsoft (just to name a few) need innovative approaches to keep the power flowing to their ever-expanding networks of data centers, call centers, corporate offices and other properties.
Just this week, telecom giant Verizon Communications announced its plans to invest as much as $100 million in natural gas fuel cells and solar energy capacity in 19 facilities in seven states.
According to Reuters, SunPower Corp. will provide rooftop and ground-based solar arrays, some of which will be mounted onto parking facilities. Natural gas will power the fuel cells, which will be provided by Oregon-based ClearEdge Power.
Verizon will put these energy improvements into place at office space, call centers and data centers in Arizona, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and North Carolina.
Officials from Verizon are insisting that these green energy sources are meant to boost system reliability — not merely to boost the company's environmental profile. The point out that fuel cells already in place at a switching station in Garden City, Long Island, N.Y. stayed active throughout Superstorm Sandy even when the local grid was knocked out of service.
The technology will be able to generate 8 million kilowatt hours of electricity every year — enough to power about 6,000 homes.
Verizon already uses fuel cells and solar energy, but this is the company's largest investment on such technology so far, officials said.
Likewise, Apple is building solar energy and fuel cell capacity to serve its data centers in North Carolina. Apple has told news sources that it wants to power its data centers entirely with clean energy.
Google is spending about $1 billion on clean or renewable energy for its energy needs and recently floated the idea of special renewable energy rates for large commercial and industrial firms whose customers would prefer them to use cleaner power.
This article was originally published on Electric Light & Power/POWERGRID International. It was republished with permission.