Apple's new data center to be solar powered, 100% green

PR stunt or canny business move? Ask Barack Obama


Apple has announced that it will partner with Nevada's largest power company to build a solar farm to juice its data center in Reno, Nevada.

The new photovoltaic power source, to be built in partnership with NV Energy, will pump 43.5 million kilowatt hours per year into the grid that will power the data center, Reuters reports.

That hefty jolt o' juice is comparable to that produced by the 42 million kilowatt hours per year generated by the 100-acre, 20-megawatt solar farm that powers Apple's mega–data center in Maiden, North Carolina. That array, however, is soon to be joined by a second 20-megawatt photovoltaic installation that Apple plans to fire up later this year.

The Maiden data center's solar power is joined by a biogas fuel-cell facility that produces an additional 83 million killowatt hours per year. No such gassy goodness is planned for the Reno data center – although Apple does say that "Nevada's excellent natural solar radiation" will be supplemented by geothermal power.

The combination of photovoltaic and geothermal power will allow the Reno data center to be powered completely by renewable sources, as is the Maiden data center – although, of course, there are likely to be dirty ol' diesel-powered generators at the ready in case something should go awry.

Apple's solar array in Maiden, North Carolina

Apple's Maiden, North Carolina, photovoltaic array is soon to be replicated in Reno, Nevada

Apple is also planning to go green at its Prineville, Oregon, data center, which is now under construction, seeing as how that complex will have access to a good mix of wind, hydroelectric, solar, and geothermal power in the local grid.

In January of this year, Apple's most compact data center, in Newark, California, made it to 100 per cent renewable, primarily due to wind-produced electricity purchased wholesale from California's Direct Access power program.

"We've already achieved 100 percent renewable energy at all of our data centers," Apple says, "at our facilities in Austin, Elk Grove, Cork, and Munich, and at our Infinite Loop campus in Cupertino."

Currently, Apple says, 75 per cent of their corporate facilities are powered by renewable sources, and "We won't stop working until we achieve 100 percent throughout Apple."

Good PR, to be sure, but also good long-term business sense as we enter a period during which – should climate champions and President Obama get their way – increased regulation and oversight of non-renewable energy sources may very well drive up the cost of electricity from CO2-spewing power plants.

It's vanishingly unlikely that the US will introduce a carbon tax anytime in the foreseeable future – but should that happen, Apple will appear prescient. ®

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