eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY) is investing in a 6 MW array of Bloom Energy fuel cells to cut its dependence on grid electricity from Utah’s coal-fired plants.

Thirty Bloom Energy servers are being engineered into eBay’s expanded data centre facility in South Jordan in Utah, US, and should be fully functional by mid-2013.

To further burnish its environmental profile, eBay will pay a premium to produce biogas equivalent to the fuel cells’ consumption.

While fuel cell arrays are already used by several major organisations, Peter Gross, vice president of mission critical systems at Bloom Energy, told the New York Times that eBay’s redesign of its data centre was unprecedented.

He describes the move as ‘an extraordinary step to do something that has never been done before’. Nearly all data centres currently draw their main power from the grid and have complex backup systems, which are absent in the new concept.

Fuel cells run on gas, producing water and carbon dioxide, and have become increasingly competitive with grid power after a plunge in US gas prices triggered by the shale gas boom.

eBay estimates that its data centres’ electricity demand totals 43 MW, of which the fuel cells would meet about 15%.

For more On-Site Power news