Green Apple: Data Center Powered By Renewable Energy

Apple is looking to go more green. Will it have any kind of influence?

PC power usage and management is an issue that many people think about (or should be thinking about!) in their own homes, but it appears Apple is going to set a dramatic example. The company is planning to power its main U.S. data center with 100 percent renewable energy by the end of 2012.

“Apple’s data center in Maiden, North Carolina, will draw about 20 megawatts of power at full capacity,” the company said on its website. “We’ll be producing an unprecedented 60 percent of this power onsite. To do that, we’re building what will be the nation’s largest private solar arrays and the largest non-utility fuel cell installation operating anywhere in the country. That’s a scale of onsite renewable energy production that no other company has matched.”

Apple said onsite energy will minimize the company’s dependence on the grid and reduce its impact on the environment. The company claims the Maiden facility will be the most environmentally sound data center ever built. Whether that is hyperbole or not remains to be seen, but it does seem like a great way to move forward in making the country more green.

Greenpeace has been pushing hard for major tech companies to adopt greener practices. The organization, famous for its human shield tactics to save whales being hunted on the high seas,  seems intrigued by the move to a green data center for Apple, but Greenpeace IT analyst Gary Cook still still wants to see how the plans develop before giving the project a complete endorsement, according to ZDNet.

“Greenpeace and Apple’s customers look forward to hearing more detail about how Apple plans to fulfill its commitment to renewable energy for its North Carolina and Oregon data center,” Cook said in a statement to the website. “Apple is still one of Duke Energy’s largest customers, and will have to demand Duke provide the clean energy it needs to legitimately claim the iCloud is 100 percent powered by renewable energy.”

Reuters said once the solar farm is up, it will supply 84 million kilowatt hours of energy annually. The company is using equipment from SunPower Corporation and Bloom Energy to build two solar arrays, and Apple intends to build a smaller biogas fuel-cell plant, according to the news source. These two solar farms will cover about 250 acres, making them the largest in the industry, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer told Reuters.

“I’m not aware of any other company producing energy on site at this scale,” Oppenheimer told the news source. “The plan we are releasing today includes two solar farms and together they will be twice as big as we previously announced, thanks to the purchase of some land very near to the data center in Maiden, which will help us meet this goal.”

Oppenheimer said the next green facility will open in Prineville, Oregon, but it is still in the planning stages. Even so, the company has so far seen “plenty of renewable sources nearby.”

Apple’s website said the Prineville location will look to access enough local renewable sources to meet the needs of the facility. Thus far, Apple is working with local utility companies and renewable energy providers for geothermal, wind, hydro and other forms of power. The company said it is trying to be very transparent in building up all of these renewable energy fields and sources so that people can track their progress.

Does Apple moving to a more green way of managing data inspire you to be greener in your home computing? Let us know in the comments!

Matt Williams

A self-proclaimed ‘tech geek’, Matt has worked in technology for a decade and divides his time between blogging and working in IT. A huge New York Giants fan, when not watching football Matt gets his game on playing Call of Duty with his friends and other tech bloggers.