Apple's North Carolina solar, fuel cell plants will be largest of their kind

Posted:
in iCloud edited January 2014


Apple's solar farm in North Carolina will be a 20-megawatt, 100-acre facility that is the largest end-user-owned onsite solar array in the country. It and a previously undisclosed fuel cell installation will power a data center that is the only in its class to achieve LEED Platinum certification.



More details on the company's forthcoming solar project were revealed in an update to the company's website on green initiatives and environmental impacts, along with a new Facilities Environmental Report. The updated report, first noticed by CNet, reveals that the company's data center in Maiden, N.C., is the largest in its class with LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.



"Our goal is to run the Maiden facility with high percentage renewable energy mix, and we have major projects under way to achieve this -- including building the nation's largest end user-owned solar array and building the largest nonutility fuel cell installation in the United States," the site reads.



Appel's 100-acre solar facility will supply 42 million kWh of clean, renewable energy annually, the company's report states.



It also gives details on a new 5-megawatt fuel cell installation that is scheduled to open later this year. When it does, it will be the largest non-utility fuel cell installation operating anywhere in the country.



The fuel cell installation will be powered by 100 percent biogas, Apple revealed, and it will provide more than 40 million kWh of 24x7 baseload renewable energy annually.



Apple first announced plans to build its massive $1 billion server farm in Maiden in 2009. The facility opened last spring, and only months after, Apple's plans to build a solar farm on an adjacent property were revealed.











The Maiden data center helps to power Apple's online operations, including the iCloud umbrella of Web applications and services, and the iTunes Store that serves up applications, music, movies, books and more.



Apple's environmental website reveals that the company estimates 98 percent of its carbon emissions come from manufacturing, transportation, use and recycling of its products. Just 2 percent is estimated to come from its facilities.



The company also boasts that it has reduced carbon emissions on a number of its products, most notably the Apple TV set-top box. From 2007 to 2011, carbon emissions with the Apple TV were reduced by 90 percent. The iMac has also seen a 50 percent reduction from 1998 to 2011, while the Mac mini has dropped 52 percent.



Apple has also reduced the packaging associated with the iPhone by 42 percent from 2007 to 2011. That allows the company to ship 80 percent more boxes in each airline shipping container, saving one 747 flight for every 371,250 boxes Apple ships.



[ View article on AppleInsider ]

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Comments

  • anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 17,431member
    Yeah, all well and good.



    Until the NYT runs with the story about trees that had to be razed to build the building.
  • Quote:
    Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post


    Yeah, all well and good.



    Until the NYT runs with the story about trees that had to be razed to build the building.



    Or how many squirrels jumped to their deaths from those trees.
  • pendergastpendergast Posts: 1,358member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Napoleon_PhoneApart View Post


    Or how many squirrels jumped to their deaths from those trees.



    Hey, those squirrels had it a lot better than other squirrels. Would you rather those squirrels be unemployed?
  • Quote:
    Originally Posted by Pendergast View Post


    Hey, those squirrels had it a lot better than other squirrels. Would you rather those squirrels be unemployed?



    And they still jumped?! They musta been nuts.
  • desuserigndesuserign Posts: 1,316member
    While I applaud their efforts, I don't understand why they decided to clear forested land for solar arrays when they have a huge, largely empty roof on top of their data center. They could have put a significant portion of their solar cells on that roof, cleared far less land, and made their building less of a heat radiator.
  • aaarrrggghaaarrrgggh Posts: 1,539member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by DESuserIGN View Post


    While I applaud their efforts, I don't understand why they decided to clear forested land for solar arrays when they have a huge, largely empty roof on top of their data center. They could have put a significant portion of their solar cells on that roof, cleared far less land, and made their building less of a heat radiator.



    I am sure they are using they are using it as well, but it hardly makes a dent in comparison.



    This really is huge. I am impressed. Surprised that if this was their plan they chose NC though. Biggest incentive there is cheap power.
  • kibitzerkibitzer Posts: 1,108member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by DESuserIGN View Post


    While I applaud their efforts, I don't understand why they decided to clear forested land for solar arrays when they have a huge, largely empty roof on top of their data center. They could have put a significant portion of their solar cells on that roof, cleared far less land, and made their building less of a heat radiator.



    And I don't understand why you're not using rags instead of toilet paper, so you can rinse them out and reuse them. As to the squirrels, Apple chartered LP gas-fueled buses to transport them to another woodlot and then paid them relocation assistance until they settled in.
  • Quote:
    Originally Posted by DESuserIGN View Post


    While I applaud their efforts, I don't understand why they decided to clear forested land for solar arrays when they have a huge, largely empty roof on top of their data center. They could have put a significant portion of their solar cells on that roof, cleared far less land, and made their building less of a heat radiator.



    Likely that would have been more expensive. It is unlikely that they will make any money on this as it is, compared to buying the juice from the local utility.
  • blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 1,431member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by DESuserIGN View Post


    While I applaud their efforts, I don't understand why they decided to clear forested land for solar arrays when they have a huge, largely empty roof on top of their data center. They could have put a significant portion of their solar cells on that roof, cleared far less land, and made their building less of a heat radiator.



    I think there are multiple questions here, and none of the answers are obvious (at least, not obvious to me):



    1. Is it better to have the solar panels on the roof or not?



    Right now, it's a white roof. White roofs are great at reflecting sunlight and heat. Cooling is a major issue for data centers. Solar panels are not white -- in fact they are intentionally black so as to absorb rather than reflect light. So solar panels on the roof might generate electricity, but they might also result in a hotter building that needs more electricity to cool. What's the right tradeoff? The fact that Apple hasn't put solar panels on the roof makes me think that the white roof is better. But who knows...



    2. Is it better to replace trees with solar panels from a CO2 perspective?



    Trees suck CO2 out of the atmosphere, so that's an argument in favor of trees. But solar panels generate electricity without creating CO2 (unlike fossil fuels), so that's an argument in favor of solar panels. Which of these two factors is bigger? In this case it's harder to infer the answer just by looking at Apple's actions, because the carbon-sink properties of trees probably are not internalized by Apple (whereas the light-reflecting property of a white roof is internalized by Apple). Given the relatively low efficiency of solar panels, my guess is that cutting down the trees is a net loser in terms of CO2. But that's just a guess.



    Would be interesting to see some answers from someone who knows what they're talking about.
  • isaidsoisaidso Posts: 750member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by I am a Zither Zather Zuzz View Post


    Likely that would have been more expensive. It is unlikely that they will make any money on this as it is, compared to buying the juice from the local utility.



    They don't have to make money. They only have to not lose money, and then they are ahead of the game.

    My folks had solar installed on the roof of their house; haven't had to pay an electric bill in two years. (other than the fixed "service supply" portion of their bill)
  • Quote:
    Originally Posted by isaidso View Post


    They don't have to make money. They only have to not lose money, and then they are ahead of the game.

    My folks had solar installed on the roof of their house; haven't had to pay an electric bill in two years. (other than the fixed "service supply" portion of their bill)



    How much capital is invested? What is the payback time period? Will the panels last that long?



    From what I hear, from a purely economic perspective, photovoltaic cells do not pay for themselves.



    And interestingly, Apple installed a fuel cell too, further adding to capital costs.
  • blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 1,431member
    This is interesting:



    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_roof



    It sounds like a roof covered in grass has two benefits -- carbon sink and keeps the building cool. I wonder how that compares to either a white roof or a roof with solar panels in terms of overall CO2 impact. And what if instead of grass you cover the roof with, say, a big algae pond? And then use the algae as either animal feed or as a biofuel?



    Lots of options... would be neat to hear an expert comment on these tradeoffs...
  • wigginwiggin Posts: 2,196member
    Clearly the stockholders will be outraged by this. After all, the ONLY purpose for a public company to exist is to make the shareholders money. At least, that's what many claim. And according to some, Apple's wasteful use of it's capital in in this manner is illegal because they aren't maximizing profits for the sole benefit of the shareholders.



    It's only a matter for time before the shareholders get rid of the current board and replaces them with people who have a clue how to run a business.



    </s>
  • flaneurflaneur Posts: 4,148member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Blastdoor View Post


    I think there are multiple questions here, and none of the answers are obvious (at least, not obvious to me):



    1. Is it better to have the solar panels on the roof or not?



    Right now, it's a white roof. White roofs are great at reflecting sunlight and heat. Cooling is a major issue for data centers. Solar panels are not white -- in fact they are intentionally black so as to absorb rather than reflect light. So solar panels on the roof might generate electricity, but they might also result in a hotter building that needs more electricity to cool. What's the right tradeoff? The fact that Apple hasn't put solar panels on the roof makes me think that the white roof is better. But who knows...



    2. Is it better to replace trees with solar panels from a CO2 perspective?



    Trees suck CO2 out of the atmosphere, so that's an argument in favor of trees. But solar panels generate electricity without creating CO2 (unlike fossil fuels), so that's an argument in favor of solar panels. Which of these two factors is bigger? In this case it's harder to infer the answer just by looking at Apple's actions, because the carbon-sink properties of trees probably are not internalized by Apple (whereas the light-reflecting property of a white roof is internalized by Apple). Given the relatively low efficiency of solar panels, my guess is that cutting down the trees is a net loser in terms of CO2. But that's just a guess.



    Would be interesting to see some answers from someone who knows what they're talking about.



    Not that I know what I'm talking about, but it would seem that an airspace under the solar panels would take care of that heat-absorption problem, and lead to a roof even cooler than a white one.
  • Quote:
    Originally Posted by Wiggin View Post


    Clearly the stockholders will be outraged by this. After all, the ONLY purpose for a public company to exist is to make the shareholders money. At least, that's what many claim. And according to some, Apple's wasteful use of it's capital in in this manner is illegal because they aren't maximizing profits for the sole benefit of the shareholders.



    It's only a matter for time before the shareholders get rid of the current board and replaces them with people who have a clue how to run a business.



    </s>



    The PR will be well worth the money spent.



    Apple is Green, m'kay?
  • blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 1,431member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Flaneur View Post


    Not that I know what I'm talking about, but it would seem that an airspace under the solar panels would take care of that heat-absorption problem, and lead to a roof even cooler than a white one.



    Sounds like we need Mythbusters to figure this one out for us
  • blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 1,431member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Wiggin View Post


    Clearly the stockholders will be outraged by this. After all, the ONLY purpose for a public company to exist is to make the shareholders money. At least, that's what many claim. And according to some, Apple's wasteful use of it's capital in in this manner is illegal because they aren't maximizing profits for the sole benefit of the shareholders.



    It's only a matter for time before the shareholders get rid of the current board and replaces them with people who have a clue how to run a business.



    </s>



    Heh, yeah...



    I know you're kidding, but I feel like making a serious response anyway (speaking as someone who has a large portion of my small amount of money in Apple stock).



    Seems to me that so long as Apple is earning 0.00% on their cash hoard, then there are a lot of things that become attractive ways to spend money that normally wouldn't be that attractive. If nothing else, one can think of this sort of thing as a form of brand-building advertising, similar to the Think Different ad campaign. Unlike TV ads and billboards, though, this is a form of advertising that has the extra bonus of generating electricity, which Apple needs anyway.
  • digitalclipsdigitalclips Posts: 15,766member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Blastdoor View Post


    Heh, yeah...



    I know you're kidding, but I feel like making a serious response anyway (speaking as someone who has a large portion of my small amount of money in Apple stock).



    Seems to me that so long as Apple is earning 0.00% on their cash hoard, then there are a lot of things that become attractive ways to spend money that normally wouldn't be that attractive. If nothing else, one can think of this sort of thing as a form of brand-building advertising, similar to the Think Different ad campaign. Unlike TV ads and billboards, though, this is a form of advertising that has the extra bonus of generating electricity, which Apple needs anyway.



    I agree this is good for many reasons ... but I thought a lot of that $100B, so called cash, is indeed earning money in a mix of ways, some long term some short, where did you get the 0% number from?
  • wigginwiggin Posts: 2,196member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by I am a Zither Zather Zuzz View Post


    The PR will be well worth the money spent.



    Apple is Green, m'kay?



    I really hope that with both a sarcasm tag and a grin that you didn't think I was taking my own comments seriously!



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Blastdoor View Post


    Heh, yeah...



    I know you're kidding, but I feel like making a serious response anyway (speaking as someone who has a large portion of my small amount of money in Apple stock).



    Seems to me that so long as Apple is earning 0.00% on their cash hoard, then there are a lot of things that become attractive ways to spend money that normally wouldn't be that attractive. If nothing else, one can think of this sort of thing as a form of brand-building advertising, similar to the Think Different ad campaign. Unlike TV ads and billboards, though, this is a form of advertising that has the extra bonus of generating electricity, which Apple needs anyway.



    Yeah, I agree. I just couldn't resist poking a bit of fun at the expense of those who think the sole purpose in being for a company is to make stockholders money (with a usual focus on the short term). I just think Apple truly enjoys what it's doing as a company and doesn't overly concern itself with the stockholders or managing it's share price.
  • cityguidecityguide Posts: 122member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Blastdoor View Post


    I think there are multiple questions here, and none of the answers are obvious (at least, not obvious to me):



    1. Is it better to have the solar panels on the roof or not?



    Right now, it's a white roof. White roofs are great at reflecting sunlight and heat. Cooling is a major issue for data centers. Solar panels are not white -- in fact they are intentionally black so as to absorb rather than reflect light. So solar panels on the roof might generate electricity, but they might also result in a hotter building that needs more electricity to cool. What's the right tradeoff? The fact that Apple hasn't put solar panels on the roof makes me think that the white roof is better. But who knows...



    2. Is it better to replace trees with solar panels from a CO2 perspective?



    Trees suck CO2 out of the atmosphere, so that's an argument in favor of trees. But solar panels generate electricity without creating CO2 (unlike fossil fuels), so that's an argument in favor of solar panels. Which of these two factors is bigger? In this case it's harder to infer the answer just by looking at Apple's actions, because the carbon-sink properties of trees probably are not internalized by Apple (whereas the light-reflecting property of a white roof is internalized by Apple). Given the relatively low efficiency of solar panels, my guess is that cutting down the trees is a net loser in terms of CO2. But that's just a guess.



    Would be interesting to see some answers from someone who knows what they're talking about.



    I'm no expert, but I have some experience with a couple of these, FWIW.



    My employer has offices in Charlotte, and I have kin in Memphis, so I get a chance to take the rental car out from time to (long) time. Maiden is between here and there, which means the middle of nowhere, but it's pretty country to drive through. Anyway, one good reason for not mounting a lot of big flat panels atop those roofs might be the occasional but not unheard of tornado that comes through. Being anchored to the ground instead of the roof will minimize structural damage. Also, don't worry so much about those trees. Piney woods grow fast; my uncle actually harvests trees on his land every now and then to sell the wood to the mill and makes a tidy sum on it.



    A few years ago I put solar panels on my own home as part of a larger renovation. I did my cost/payback plotting and all that shtuff. In the end I figured I would get the money I spent back in 9 years but I don't think that is common. In the end, you stand your best chance of breaking even by making changes in how you use the power in your home/facility, and how much of the power you can store, if that is possible. Building from the ground up is the best bet for maximizng your return. I also had the benefit of federal and local tax credits, plus a break on the cost because it was a group buy. Your mileage will definitely vary.



    My arborists tells me over the long ruin my panels are CO2 positive, but I don't contribute any free oxygen to the world so I don't get a free pass.
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