A greener Apple

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Worldwide 75% of all Apple corporate facilities are powered by renewables and all of its data centers have achieved the 100% mark, according to the report. Apple plans to achieve its "Net Zero" goal by focusing on the following:

  • Energy efficiency via electricity management in its facilities;
  • Energy generation via own production of renewable energy onsite using fuel cells, solar PV and other renewable energy systems; and
  • Purchase of renewable energy where the company cannot produce renewable energy on its own. Apple will purchase and invest in local, newer projects to ensure additional development that is sustainable. And it will be careful to retire all Renewable Energy Credits (RECs).

Environmentally friendly iCloud

The data centers operated by Apple are huge energy guzzlers. Storage of music, photos, videos, other multimedia, apps, iMessages and so on, as well as the entire powering of iCloud require phenomenal amounts of energy. Apple made the commitment last year to supply these operations only with renewable power after pressure from environmental activists like Greenpeace.

The Maiden, North Carolina data center was previously running on Duke Energy grid’s coal power. Now Apple can proudly say its facility is run 100% on clean energy. A 20 MW PV array powers the facility, and an additional 20 MW of solar is expected to come into operation late this year. The additional solar array is currently under construction on a nearby land parcel. 167 million kWh are expected to be produced onsite with these arrays.

On top of that, Apple also has a 10 MW fuel cell installation that utilizes biogas and provides more than 83 million kWh of 24/7 baseload renewable energy yearly, the largest of its kind in the country, according to the company. What Apple cannot cover with its installed renewable solutions, it will offset with RECs. The Maiden data center has already earned the LEED Platinum certification from the US Green Building Council.

Grid-purchased renewable energy

Apple has stated that its other facilities will also soon be functioning in a highly environmentally-friendly fashion. However being located in different states, different laws and regulations apply.

In North Carolina, Direct Access is not permitted hence the company’s grid-purchased option is to use an in-state partner to procure local, renewable energy credits. This partner is NC GreenPower, a non-profit, who will supply the data center with RECs. Another project with NC GreenPower is to help the local landfill in Catawba County nearby to generate electricity with its waste methane gas.

The other data centers are namely:

Newark, California: Granted regulatory approval in 2012 to procure renewable energy directly from the wholesale market via California’s Direct Access program. Beginning January 2013, the data center has been served with 100% clean energy mostly from Californian wind.

Prineville, Oregon: Currently under construction, and with complete access to enough local renewable energy sources to meet all energy needs of the center. Oregon allows direct wholesale purchase of renewable energy via Direct Access and thus Apple will opt out of the default grid mix and access the local renewable energy sources directly. Apple is working with two local utilities and numerous renewable energy providers to develop and purchase power from local wind, solar and micro-hydro sources.

Reno, Nevada: To be developed. Apple will use the local solar radiation conditions and geothermal resources in Nevada to power this data center.

Worldwide corporate facilities: The Austin, Texas facility has been operating on 100% renewable energy for nearly 10 years. Other facilities in Elk Grove, California, Cork in Ireland, Munich in Germany have also been switched to renewable power. 2012 saw the addition of most Australian facilities to the list.