Green Apple: Data Center Going 100% Clean Power

Apple, the world’s most valuable company, also has a big ol’ carbon footprint, associated not least with its cloud-based services. Now the IT giant has announced that its main data center in Maiden, N.C., will  meet all 20 megawatts of the power it requires at full capacity with renewable energy.

In a first for Apple, 60 percent of this power will be generated onsite, via what the company believes will be the nation’s largest private solar array and the largest non-utility fuel cell installation anywhere in the U.S. (These are, essentially, utility-scale installations for a private company, which is pretty much what’s required to take a significant bite out of the energy needs of a data center this big.) CNET reports that Apple’s biogas fuel cell installation is set for completion later this year.

Apple Maiden datacenter map

image via Apple

When the solar arrays and fuel cells are up and operating, according to Apple, its Maiden data center will be the most environmentally sound data center ever built. Apple has been targeted by Greenpeace in its  “Clean our Cloud” campaign.

The data center will help to support  iCloud, Apple’s storage and sync service, which relies on data centers to store user data. It will also play a role in powering Siri, the ever-popular voice assistant feature for the iPhone 4S.  Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer recently noted, in an interview with Reuters, that the two solar farms going to power the Maiden datacenter would be twice as large as the company had originally indicated. The farm across the street from the data center has already received regulatory approval by the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC).

apple data center, north carolina

image via Apple

In a bid for transparency concerning how much energy these farms will actually be producing,  Apple plans to register the renewable energy generated by its solar arrays and fuel cell installations with the North Carolina Renewable Energy Tracking System (NC-RETS) established by the NCUC. The energy needs of the data center not covered by renewable energy onsite will be met with Renewable Energy Credits for clean power generated by local and regional sources.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.