Apple has revealed that its biggest data center – a facility located in Maiden, North Carolina – will be completely powered by renewable energy by the end of this year.
The move from the consumer electronics giant aims to allay concerns about power-hungry data centers being built to keep up with the demand of our data-hungry generation.
Apple says that to make its Maiden data center powered completely by renewable energy, it will be generating power on site in a scale unmatched by any other company. “To achieve this, we’re building our own facilities that will provide over 60 percent of the clean power we need,” Apple said on its site.
The most significant part of Apple’s plan to generate 60 percent of all power needed for its North Carolina data center are the massive solar array farms the company will erect.
Near the main building of the data center, Apple will be building a 100-acre state-of-the -art solar array farm. In a location a few miles away from the data center, another 100-acre 20-megawatt solar array farm will be built.
Together, the two solar farms will generate “84 million kWh of clean, renewable energy supplied annually,” the tech industry behemoth revealed.
Apple said it is “building what will be the nation’s largest private solar arrays and the largest non-utility fuel cell installation operating anywhere in the country.” Apple boasts that when its solar energy facilities will be up and running, “Apple’s Maiden data center will be the most environmentally sound data center ever built.”
Furthermore, the solar array farms will not be ordinary solar array farms as the facilities will be equipped with high-efficiency solar cells and an advanced solar tracking system. We’re expecting solar arrays which move where the sun is so as to take in full the power radiated from our star.
Also, the company will also be building a new biogas-powered 5-megawatt fuel cell facility later this year which will provide over 40 million kWh of renewable energy annually in addition to the solar power facilities.
As a clue to how massive this data center is, the three renewable energy power-generating facilities are expected to provide 124 million kWh per year. Apple says that this kind of power can sustain the energy needs of 10,874 homes.
However, take note that 124 million kWh annually is just 60 percent of the power needs of the Maiden, North Carolina Apple data center. This means that the power needed by the facility can power over 18,000 homes.
In a conversation with Reuters, Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer said: “I’m not aware of any other company producing energy onsite at this scale. The plan we are releasing today includes two solar farms and together they will be twice as big as we previously announced, thanks to the purchase of some land very near to the data center in Maiden, which will help us meet this goal.”
Nonetheless, the solar array farms and biogas facility will only meet 60 percent of the Maiden center’s power needs. To meet the energy requirements of the center, Apple will purchase energy from other facilities.
However, Apple says that it will only purchase that 40 percent deficit from local and regional facilities which produce clean and renewable energy. Apple says: “Directly purchasing clean local energy gives us the flexibility to meet our needs over time, helps us to ensure that our sources are reputable and responsible, and encourages local investment in renewable projects such as wind, solar, and bio-gas power in locations best suited for these resources. Adding renewable energy sources like these displaces dirtier energy sources from the grid.”
Apple also boasted of how their Maiden, North Carolina data center – which is expect to power iCloud – was built with industry-leading energy-efficient design in mind from the beginning. It seems that iCloud will not only have killed MobileMe, it would also take away business from Microsoft and Amazon.
It was previously reported that Apple uses Microsoft’s and Amazon’s clouds to power its iCloud service after it launched. When Apple will be finished building its Maiden center, it will understandably cut its dependence on the Microsoft Azure cloud and the Amazon AWS cloud.
Furthermore, according to the iPhone- and iPad-maker, its North Carolina center is the only data center of its size to be certified with LEED Platinum certification by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
To achieve this distinction, Apple says that its Maiden data center has among others:
- A chilled water storage system to improve chiller efficiency by transferring 10,400 kWh of electricity consumption from peak to off-peak hours each day
- Use of “free” outside air cooling through a waterside economizer operation during night and cool-weather hours, which, along with water storage, allows the chillers to be turned off more than 75 percent of the time
- Extreme precision in managing cooling distribution for cold air containment pods with variable-speed fans controlled to exactly match airflow-to-server requirements from moment to moment
- Power distributed at higher voltages, which increases efficiency by reducing power loss
- White cool-roof design to provide maximum solar reflectivity
- High-efficiency LED lighting combined with motion sensors
- Real-time power monitoring and analytics during operations
- Construction processes that utilized 14 percent recycled materials, diverted 93 percent of construction waste from landfills, and sourced 41 percent of purchased materials within 500 miles of the site
Meanwhile, the push towards green energy is not only for its Maiden data center. Apple also revealed its going greener in its other data centers.
Apple reminded that for about 10 years, all the power needed for its operations center in Austin, Texas has been renewable energy. Furthermore, Apple says that since then, it has added its “Sacramento, California, and Cork, Ireland, operations centers and Munich, Germany, facilities to our list of sites with 100 percent renewable energy.”
This year, Apple also began purchasing direct-access renewable energy for its Northern California facilities with its Cupertino, California headquarters having over 50 percent of its energy requirements met by renewable energy.
Apple also said that when it will complete its Prineville, Oregon facility, it will be “every bit as environmentally responsible as our Maiden data center.” The Newark, California data center will also soon make use of renewable energy, Apple said.