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Innovation

Apple Rebrands Itself as iRenewable with Green Data Centers

Apple Rebrands Itself as iRenewable with Green Data Centers
May 18, 2012 2:29PM

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Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer told news media that Apple's freedom from coal was "an industry first for anybody of our size." Apple has been the target of protests by Greenpeace for being too reliant on coal, but it did not give any indication if the protests influenced Apple's decision to emphasize renewable energy at its data centers.

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Some Apples will be green. Apple data centers, that is.

The technology giant has announced that its new half-million-square-foot data center in Maiden, N.C., will only use electricity that has been generated by renewable energy. The company said that the Maiden facility will be "the most environmentally sound data center ever built."

This complements plans for a data center currently in Newark, Calif., and one planned for Prineville, Ore., to go 100 percent renewable.

'An Industry First'

Two solar array installations are being built to support the North Carolina center, and both will use high-efficiency solar cells and an advanced solar tracking system. One array will be a 100-acre, 20 megawatt installation on the same site as the data center, and it will generate 42 million kilowatt-hours each year.

The other, also 100 acres, is being located several miles away, and it will produce another 42 million kWh. A bio-gas-powered 5-megawatt fuel cell installation is being constructed, and will become operational later this year. It will add another 40 million kWh.

These Apple-owned energy generators will generate 124 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, which will account for 60 percent of the data center's needs. The remainder will come from area providers of renewable energy.

Greenpeace Protests

The data center planned for Prineville will use only renewable energy, purchased from local providers of wind, hydro and geothermal. The data center in Newark has received regulatory permission to purchase electricity from renewable sources, and expects to be 100 percent renewable by February of next year.

In a section called "Apple and the Environment" on its Web site, the company pointed out that its operations center in Austin, Texas, has been using only purchased renewable energy for nearly a decade, and now its operations centers in Sacramento, Munich, and Cork, Ireland, do as well. The corporate headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., uses 50 percent renewable, including energy generated from on-site fuel cells.

CFO Peter Oppenheimer told news media that Apple's freedom from coal was "an industry first for anybody of our size." Apple has been the target of protests by Greenpeace for being too reliant on coal, but it did not give any indication if the protests influenced the company's decision.

Energy consumption and efficiency in data centers has become a focus for some large companies. Google, for instance, has noted that its custom-built data centers use only about half the energy of most other centers. About 30 percent of its current electricity use is from renewable sources, including renewable energy already in the grid and that which the company buys directly. That figure is expected to grow to over 35 percent annually.

The company has said that it emphasizes four concepts to increase energy efficiency. It accurately measures power usage, keeps the centers warm to reduce cooling costs, designs each element in the data center to operate at optimal efficiency, and cools the centers without chillers.

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