Facebook signed a deal with Cogenra Solar to install a cogeneration system in its head office located at Menlo Park, California. According to Cogenra, it would place photovoltaic solar panels on top of Facebook’s renovated fitness center.
This is the second green move that Facebook made in the past week. Earlier, the social network giant got the approval from Greenpeace when it announced that it would build a data center near the Arctic Circle in Sweden that would get its power from renewable energy.
Photovoltaic panels absorb a small amount of energy, which is around 15 to 20 percent. The rest is wasted heat. Cogenra’s solar power system has mirrors to focus the sun’s energy. It reflects the sunlight on photovoltaic panels to produce electricity as well as capture the heat energy in liquid-chemical filled tubes to heat water. It utilizes the energy that other solar installations waste.
The solar power company said that its technology could capture 80 percent of the sun’s energy and generate five times the power of traditional PV solar panels. Facebook will have a 24 module installation that would combine electric and thermal output of 60 kW. Most Bay Area companies have resorted to installing solar panels on top of their offices and warehouses. Facebook’s solar modules would be modest compared to these systems. An average home solar system produces around 3 kW of electricity.
This would be enough to replace 60 percent of Facebook’s fitness center’s requirement as well as part of its electricity consumption. The solar power installation would power the exercise equipment and churn out hot water for the locker rooms.
The solar array will cover just one of the nine buildings in the Facebook campus, which used to house Sun Microsystems. Facebook could expand the installation if it is satisfied with the performance of Cogenra’s system. It could use the hot water for an existing café and another planned for the campus. It would check out the new concept and assess its potential.
Both Cogenra Solar and Facebook declined to comment on how much the solar installation would cost the social network. But according to Cogenra CEO Gilad Almogy, Facebook would recoup its investment in less than five years after completion. This would be a shorter return of investment compared to other forms of renewable energy.
Aside from Facebook, Cogenra’s system is used at a Sonoma winery, which utilizes the hot water to clean barrels. The company also plans to install a rooftop version of the technology on a dormitory at the University of Arizona.