Will Apple's New Headquarters Be Powered by Bloom Boxes?

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Apple's new headquarters in Cupertino, California, will generate its own electricity from natural gas one way or another

SteveJobsReutersII-Post.jpg

Steve Jobs announced Apple's plans to build a new headquarters building in Cupertino, California, last night at the local city council meeting. The building looks stunning, a massive circle with a huge courtyard in the middle. Like most high-tech companies' campuses, it will feature nice landscaping and the amenities you'd expect.

One small detail that I'm interested in, though, is how Apple will power its building. Jobs said that there will be an energy center on the campus that will use natural gas as its main energy supply, tapping into the grid for backup.

What do you do with natural gas? You convert it into electricity. And that may mean that Bloom Energy is about to get another customer. You may remember Bloom from last year, when they had a big "Apple-style" press event to unveil their "Bloom Boxes," natural gas fuel cells that are supposed to be plug-n-play for big companies. Backed by the big Silicon Valley VC firm, Kleiner Perkins, they've long had Google and Coca Cola as customers and recently announced the expansion of their manufacturing operations.

It would make sense -- given the geographical proximity of the two companies and Apple's stated plans -- that Bloom wins Apple's business. But Bloom is not the only option. Companies like Biogen in Cambridge have installed natural gas microturbines that produce both heat and power, though with much less fanfare than Bloom Energy's fuel cells.

Image: Reuters.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer calls Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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