Following widespread criticism of its environmental record from groups including Greenpeace, Apple has made efforts to reduce the environmental impact of its products and facilities in recent years. As part of these ongoing efforts, the company has revealed plans to build the United States' largest end user-owned, onsite solar array at its Maiden, North Carolina iDataCenter.

The news comes from a newly released report outlining the environmental impact of Apple's worldwide facilities, including its retail stores, R&D facilities, and operations and data centers. Being completed in 2011, the Maiden facility already boasted a green design and received LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council - a feat that Apple points out hasn't been achieved by any other comparably sized data center.

Further enhancing the facility's environmental credentials, Apple will build a 100-acre, 20-megawatt facility on land surrounding the data center to supply 42 million kWh of renewable energy to the facility annually.

The Maiden facility's existing energy-efficient design elements include a white cool-roof the maximize solar reflectivity and reduce the building's cooling requirements, and a chilled water storage system that allows 10,400 kWh of electricity consumption to be transferred from peak to off-peak hours each day. It's conceivable that this system could also be employed to store electricity generated by the solar array during the day for use at night.

Apple hasn't announced when the solar array will be constructed, but the report also reveals the company is building a fuel cell installation that is scheduled to go online later this year. The 5-megawatt facility will be located directly adjacent to the data center and will be 100 percent powered by biogas to provide more than 40 million kWh of round-the-clock baseload renewable energy annually. Upon completion, Apple says it will be the largest non-utility fuel cell installation in the U.S.

The report indicates the company is dedicated to becoming a greener Apple, but the environmental impact of its facilities are just a drop in the ocean compared to emissions from other sources. As much as 98 percent of the company's total greenhouse gas emissions come the production, transport, use, and recycling of its products, with the company's corporate facilities accounting for the remaining two percent.

Source: Apple Facilities Report (PDF) via 9to5Mac