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Apple to build largest end user-owned, onsite solar array in the U.S.

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February 21, 2012

Apple's Maiden data center already boasts a white cool-roof and is set to add the largest ...

Apple's Maiden data center already boasts a white cool-roof and is set to add the largest end user-owned, onsite solar array in the U.S.

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

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
12 Comments

That's heart-warming to know Apple cares about the environment...but not the working environment of the people who make its products that lead to them feeling suicidal.

It's all about public image, its easier to openly promote 'green' activities and draw attention away from terrible working conditions of workers who are not allowed to speak to anyone about what really goes on to make products for Apple.

Oztechi
22nd February, 2012 @ 04:58 am PST

Yeah chop down that forest!!!!! Plant solar panels to heat up the planet! Well done!

Pl0pie
22nd February, 2012 @ 05:37 am PST

OMG they are going to exchange their reflective roof to some solar panels? They already chopped down the forest, which happens to be the most effective against global warming... sigh

Pl0pie
22nd February, 2012 @ 05:39 am PST

Hm. And I'm thinking all of these comments are being sent from....drumroll....

Michael L. Kamrath
22nd February, 2012 @ 08:08 am PST

Put solar collectors on the roofs, put solar collectors over the parking lots, even put solar collectors over public roads, but cutting down trees to put up solar collectors in their place is just asinine.

Slowburn
22nd February, 2012 @ 12:18 pm PST

About time that Google did the same. Their power consumption is the same as a small size city. Well done Apple.

Paul Perkins
22nd February, 2012 @ 12:36 pm PST

I like the last paragraph of this article. This public stunt of generating greener energy is indeed but a drop in the bucket and in the end doesn't make much of a difference.

On a somewhat unrelated note, I remember in this interview with Steve Jobs recognizing the problem of energy supply in the future, but he didn't personally have any investments in it, leaving it to other people to solve it.

Fretting Freddy the Ferret pressing the Fret
22nd February, 2012 @ 02:08 pm PST

re; Fretting Freddy

The electricity supply problem is the fools that prevent us from using nuclear power.

Slowburn
22nd February, 2012 @ 06:00 pm PST

As the vast majority of Apple's manufacturing, assembly, and transport; i.e. the major sources of their greenhouse gas emissions, take place outside the U.S.A. this is obviously a cynical attempt to placate the home-based green lobby.

The response to questions regarding their effects elswhere in the world would no doubt be something along the lines of, "We are not responsible for the policies of our suppliers. It is up to them to take whatever actions they deem appropriate."

However, any significant investment in green technology on the part of said suppliers would no doubt lead to price increases, and the loss of Apple contracts.

A'Tuin
23rd February, 2012 @ 04:27 am PST

re; A'Tuin

First. AGW has been proven to be a fraud.

Second. If these systems can be proven to be more cost effective they will spring up elsewhere.

Slowburn
23rd February, 2012 @ 07:01 am PST

Knowing Apple, I suspect that there is more than just being green here. I would be willing to bet that on some level whether it be tax breaks or just plain cheaper in the long run, it is not being done just to enhance their image. I commend Apple on looking forward as they often do. Why some assume being green is always more expensive and find this bad is just bizzare, although I guess no matter how good something is there will always be people that don't like it.

katgod
23rd February, 2012 @ 01:46 pm PST

Simple straight forward answer to all our energy ill's..... and its name is NUCLEAR ENERGY.

There are modulated self contained reactors designs which can be sized to suit the power output requirements. These units are safe and the only real solution to our addiction to high energy. Renewables don't come close to the energy concentration contained in oil, hence our reluctance to utilize it until all the oil is gone. oil is powerful and for the moment, cheap.

If they can use these self contained units on submarines and on warships they can sure as hell use them for data centers and towns/cities.

Dont spend a billion dollars building a "Simpsons type" reactor installation, just buy a self contained unit from the US military for a fraction of the price.

The main block is the US against nuclear proliferation. But how long can we keep going down the same dead-end like we are? I guess untill climate change costs too much money, but then, its too late.

cm
5th March, 2012 @ 04:35 pm PST
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