Rather than directly generating electricity from the rotation of the turbine blades, Apple’s idea is to convert the rotational energy to heat a fluid. The heat in the fluid can then be subsequently used to generate electricity.
It means that electricity generated from the turbines can better respond to actual demand, which makes it more cost-efficient than the variable output from direct generation. The method can also replace other storage technologies such as batteries.
Apple seems to be getting increasingly involved in renewable energy technology. In December I reported that the company is building what will be the largest private solar arrays and the largest non-utility fuel cell installation operating anywhere in the US. The renewable power will feed into the company’s $1bn data centre in Maiden, North Carolina, supplying 60% of the 20 megawatts of power the data centre needs when running at full capacity. Apple says it will be the most environmentally sound data centre ever built.
Google’s involvement in renewable energy far outstrips Apple’s though, the latest being a $200m investment in a wind farm in west Texas that generates enough energy to power more than 60,000 US homes.
The Spinning Spur Wind Project is a 161 megawatt facility built by renewable energy developer EDF Renewable Energy, which has more than 50 other clean energy projects. Spinning Spur’s 70 2.3MW Siemens turbines started spinning full time just before the end of 2012.
Google says it’s proud to be the first investor in an EDF Renewable Energy project that is not a financial institution, since it believes that corporations can be an important new source of capital for the renewable energy sector.
Altogether, the renewable energy projects Google has invested in are capable of generating two gigawatts of power. The company has come up with a graphic to show what that means:
Review: It’s nice to see two IT companies getting increasingly involved in aspects of renewable. Arguably, Google is more about promoting renewable energy as a whole, rather than just the company’s interests, although in the long run the two are probably the same thing.
I particularly like Google’s comments that corporations can be an important investors in renewable energy. Not only can they be, they should be. Renewable energy is going to be in short supply at the same time as governments introduce increasing legislation to cut down emissions. Investing in clean energy now may well pay off in the future. (Not everyone has the location or space to generate electricity on site).
Google has had the foresight to invest in the sector, no doubt giving the company priority access to clean electricity in the future. With data centre power use set to increase inexorably, the investment may turn out to be very canny indeed.