Apple Inc. filed its plans with the N.C. Utilities Commission last week to build the 4.8-megawatt project in Maiden, about 40 miles northwest of Charlotte, N.C. That’s where Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple has built a data center to support the company’s iCloud online data storage system and its Siri voice-recognition software.
The fuel cell project, the nation’s largest such project not built by an electric utility company, will be developed this year. It will be located on the same data complex that will host a planned 20-megawatt solar farm – the biggest ever proposed in this state. But it’s the fuel cell project that’s generating buzz, eclipsing anything ever dreamed of in California, the nation’s epicenter for fuel cell projects.
“That’s a huge vote of confidence in fuel cells,” said James Warner, policy director of the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association.
Fuel cells generate electricity through an electro-chemical process and are compared to batteries that give out power as long as they have a source of hydrogen. They are exorbitantly expensive and in the past have been used only in experimental realms, such as NASA moon launches. The federal government offers a 30 percent tax credit, but no state incentive is available for fuel cells in North Carolina, making Apple’s project all the more intriguing. Apple is also developing miniature fuel cells to power laptop computers.