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Apple looks to double its N.C. biogas fuel cell farm

The tech giant seeks to amp up its energy project and produce 10 megawatts of electricity -- making its farm the largest fuel cell project in the nation not run by an electric utility.

Apple's Maiden, N.C., data center could have up to 50 fuel cells running on renewable biogas. Apple

Ten megawatts of electricity is enough energy to power more than 6,000 homes. It is also the same amount of electricity that Apple is looking to produce with its biogas fuel cell project at its North Carolina data center.

The tech giant has filed a request with the N.C. Utilities Commission to double the size of its local fuel cell farm, according to the Charlotte Observer.

Currently, the data center has enough fuel cells to pump out 4.8 megawatts of electricity. Apple is asking to bump those numbers up to 50 fuel cells, which should be able to produce 10 megawatts of electricity.

If Apple is given approval to enlarge its farm, this data center would hold the country's largest fuel cell project not run by an electric utility, according to the Charlotte Observer.

Apple announced in May that it intended to have its $1 billion data center in Maiden, N.C., run entirely off renewable energy by the end of the year. The company said it was building two solar array installations in the area, which when combined will bring in 84 million kilowatt-hours of power annually. And, it was also at work on a biogas fuel cell installation.

By using biogas rather than natural gas to power its fuel cells, Apple is tapping into what many consider a renewable resource -- namely trash piling up in landfills that creates methane gas.

"The use of biogas, which displaces conventional natural gas, to generate electricity will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and smog-forming pollutants while also diversifying the fuel used to generate electricity," Apple said in its May filing.

Earlier this year, Apple's North Carolina data center became the target of attacks from Greenpeace, which launched a campaign to pressure cloud-computing providers to use more clean energy. In response, Apple said the Maiden facility would be one of the most efficient data centers in the country, with 60 percent of its power to be supplied by its on-site renewable-energy power sources and with the remaining 40 percent coming from renewable "local and regional sources."

The start-up and testing phase of Apple's North Carolina fuel cell project got underway last month, according to the Charlotte Observer. And, if the company gets approval to expand, it hopes to have its fuel cell electricity output at 10 megawatts by January.

CNET contacted Apple for comment. We'll update the story when we get more information.