back to article Power grid worries force Amazon to run Oregon datacenters using fuel cells

Unable to get the power it needs to feed its growing datacenter footprint, Amazon plans to transition some of its Oregon datacenters over to natural gas fuel cells. First reported by local media, Amazon's initial plan would involve installing just shy of 75 megawatts of fuel cell capacity across three datacenters with the …

  1. cjcox


    Would think this solution would produce maybe an order of magnitude or more heat. If that's interesting.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Heat?

      Not an order of magnitude, and as I think this is the site at the Dalles, which is right next to the Columbia River, not necessarily a major problem. It is interesting because this site was mostly chosen because it is right next to one the biggest hydropower facilities in the US. This was a big talking point at the time, as abundant cheap hydropower was considered a game changer at the time.

      Hearing that they are moving to natural gas is thus a bit darkly humorous, as is their claim that (reading between the lines) they were such dicks to the neighbors that they are pushing back on the easement for their power lines. I suspect it has more to do with the relative abundance of gas in the region and the concerted push to sell that "green" hydropower to residential customers at a considerable profit margin. The powers that be seem to be trying to force consumers into a power monopoly and as they cut end users off of gas that leaves places like Amazon to cut a deal to buy that gas at similar rate to the power companies.

      At least the base tech is pretty efficient, so it's really just shifting costs and loads. If it were another power source (like coal for example) than the impacts would be more severe. But the tech they are using should be broadly compatible with the gas turbines the power company is already running.

      Since they need redundancy, it may make more sense for them to over-provision local power generation and just run what they need 24/7 unless it's down for maintenance. They aren't eating the transmission losses, and they are solely responsible for reliability (though that cuts both ways, they CAN buy a lot of 9's but this will probably bite them at least a couple of times before they figure out the kinks.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Heat?

        >I suspect it has more to do with the relative abundance of gas in the region and the concerted push to sell that "green" hydropower to residential customers at a considerable profit margin.

        Our power is 100% hydro and much is made of how green we are.

        Except in summer we can sell green power to California for about 2x the domestic rate and replace it with fossil fueled power from further east.

        But our logo remains 100% green

  2. Dan 55 Silver badge

    If only there were some way of running workloads and applications on local devices, computers, or servers that was geographically dispersed meaning the power grid could cope.


    generator ?

    why don't they just call it what it is a generator powered by LPG

    fuel cell implies hydrogen and solar but hey why bother actually constructing any sort of supply chain...

    invest in the local supply chain for an alternative fuel... sounds like hard work...

    1. hoola Silver badge

      Re: generator ?

      Because it is cool and somehow makes people think that is is better for the environment.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: generator ?

        When the lights start going out we'll power our house with a heavy petroleum distillate "fuel cell", aka a diesel genny. Suck on that exhaust.

  4. Marty McFly Silver badge

    The same Amazon or a different Amazon??

    How much CO2 does a single 767 aircraft hauling Amazon goods emit every year? Pretty sure that is a lot more than this proposed power source.

    Or is that different CO2 than this CO2?

  5. herberts ghost

    A complete waste of renewable energy

    Also there are those who propose to dismantle some hydroelectric dams to help salmon.

    The amazon data centers should have to use the highest rates. ... let them generate their own power. Folks in Oregon and Idaho don't need computational carpetbaggers to use up our hydroelectric natural respuces.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To be fair to Amazon and AWS - assuming powergrid uptime of 99.99997%; that 0.00003% downtime equates to tens of millions of lost revenue AND impact on users downstream.

    For the dollar signs involved having a thoroughly reliable, transparent backup and cutover is a desirable feature.

    I also imagine Oregon power grid uptime is not measured in the same five-nines reliability percentages as the Western European networks or Singapore are.

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