Apple's iCloud data center to use 100% renewable energy by end of year

Posted:
in iCloud edited January 2014
Apple's main iCloud data center in Maiden, N.C., will be powered entirely by renewable energy by the end of this year with the construction of two solar array installations.

The feat will be accomplished with the construction of both new solar arrays around the existing North Carolina facility, Reuters reported on Thursday. Together, they will supply 84 million kilowatt-hours of energy per year.

The new solar installations will also reportedly rely on high-energy cells and an advanced solar tracking system. The announcement comes as Apple has been under fire from Greenpeace, which has called on Apple to build a "clean" iCloud rather than relying on coal-powered electricity.

Greenpeace's "How Clean is Your Cloud?" report, issued in April, accused Apple of lagging behind other technology companies like Facebook and Google in utilizing environmentally friendly power for its cloud-based services. Apple, however, rejected the estimates in Greenpeace's study, and provided its own figures, which claimed that renewable energy would provide more than 50 percent of the center's power needs than was originally projected.

That will all change with Apple's announcement on Thursday, however, as the data center will rely on entirely "green" energy by the end of 2012. Until then, the non-solar capacity will come from coal-fired power plants from Duke Energy.

Data Center


The solar plants will also be supported by a 5-megawatt fuel cell installation that will open later this year. Apple has said it will be the largest non-utility fuel cell installation operating anywhere in the country, and will be powered by 100 percent biogas.

Plans first surfaced last October that Apple was planning to build a solar farm opposite its North Carolina data center. The solar array will exist on 171 acres of vacant land on Startown Road that was acquired by Apple.

Apple first announced its plans to build the server farm in Maiden, N.C. in July 2009. The $1 billion data center opened last spring and currently supports iTunes and iCloud services.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 32
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member


    And you can bet Greenpeace will be breaking in, standing on the roof, and dancing about until the second the last percentage is fulfilled.

  • Reply 2 of 32
    stompystompy Posts: 334member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    And you can bet Greenpeace will be breaking in,...



     


    No, you can bet GP will take credit for this "victory". Because it wouldn't have happened without them. image

  • Reply 3 of 32
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by stompy View Post


     


    No, you can bet GP will take credit for this "victory". Because it wouldn't have happened without them. image



     


    It shows how absolutely stupid Greenpeace's stated goals are too.  Their major objection was simply that in their opinion, when building a giant data centre, the *first* factor to figure in was the availability of so-called "green energy."  They took Apple to task not because Apple didn't plan to eventually be as green as possible, but simply because to Apple it wasn't the primary consideration.  


     


    I'm on Apple's side here.  Being green is of course important, but when building a multi-million dollar data centre for distributing and supporting content world-wide, it's just not the very first thing to consider.  There are many other more important factors.  

  • Reply 4 of 32
    echosonicechosonic Posts: 452member


    Greenpeace is utterly irrelevent, and relies desperately on its attacks on Apple to keep their name and perception of relevance in the news, otherwise, nobody gives a sh-t about greenpeace since they've become a partisan political institution.

  • Reply 5 of 32
    sockrolidsockrolid Posts: 2,788member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    ... Apple has said it will be the largest non-utility fuel cell installation operating anywhere in the country, and will be powered by 100 percent biogas. ...


     


    North Carolina has one of the world's biggest sources of biogas: 10 million hogs with their vast lagoons of feces.


    Too bad the center of hog production is hundreds of miles away near the coast.

  • Reply 6 of 32
    ghostface147ghostface147 Posts: 1,629member


    As long as they fix the reliability issues.  Today iCloud hasn't pushed anything at all.  All manually fetch.  The other day it just didn't get emails and kept crashing mail, even online.  Sometimes it says invalid username/password.

  • Reply 7 of 32
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post




    Together, they will supply 84 million kilowatt-hours of energy per year.



    The solar plants will also be supported by a 5-megawatt fuel cell installation that will open later this year. 


    8.4 Megawatts is a lot of power but not with respect to a datacenter. A modern datacenter needs to support around 1000 watts per sq. ft. just for data not including the cooling infrastructure. So at 500,000 sq. ft. that just covers the minimum. Of course many sites have N+2 which means you need three times that. Sure they will have the regular power grid as a backup but I have not read the capacity of their substation, so it may be 20 MW or more but I don't see it in that photo. A substation usually takes up more than 2 acres. But they have also indicated that they intend to increase the size of the datacenter to a million sq. ft. as I recall. So more power will be needed in the future.

  • Reply 8 of 32
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    mstone wrote: »
    8.4 Megawatts is a lot of power but not with respect to a datacenter. A modern datacenter needs to support around 1000 watts per sq. ft. just for data not including the cooling infrastructure. So at 500,000 sq. ft. that just covers the minimum. Of course many sites have N+2 which means you need three times that. Sure they will have the regular power grid as a backup but I have not read the capacity of their substation, so it may be 20 MW or more but I don't see it in that photo. A substation usually takes up more than 2 acres. But they have also indicated that they intend to increase the size of the datacenter to a million sq. ft. as I recall. So more power will be needed in the future.

    Your projections of energy usage are irrelevant. Apple has stated that 100% will come from renewable sources - so no one cares whether you think 8.4 MW is not a lot with respect to a data center. It's enough to run Apple's data center. BTW, not sure where your 8.4 MW comes from. Apple says they'll have 84 M kwhr total.
  • Reply 9 of 32
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member

    ......
  • Reply 10 of 32
    carthusiacarthusia Posts: 561member


    Green is good, but I'm sure Greenpeace will soon complain that the data centers aren't run on unicorn tears.

  • Reply 11 of 32
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member


    It what sense in the Sun "renewable?" It will just burn for a fixed amount of time.

  • Reply 12 of 32


    Greenpeace is a noble organization that will, no doubt, be undeterred in their efforts to parasitically cling to Apple's fame encourage Apple to clean up their act by petty little things like Apple's completion of the project! 


     


     


    (They're of the same ilk as those who complain about Apple's supply chain working conditions with nary a thought about the conditions in Apple's competition's supply chain.  When you're #1, everyone wants a piece of your pie.)

  • Reply 13 of 32

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mstone View Post


    A modern datacenter needs to support around 1000 watts per sq. ft. just for data not including the cooling infrastructure.



     


    200W is the usual rule-of-thumb design standard. It is RARE to see actual utilization greater than 25% of that number.

  • Reply 14 of 32
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by ascii View Post

    It what sense in the Sun "renewable?" It will just burn for a fixed amount of time.


     


    Pshh, you industrialist bigwig. The obvious answer is to plant more suns!

  • Reply 15 of 32
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,687member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Carthusia View Post


    Green is good, but I'm sure Greenpeace will soon complain that the data centers aren't run on unicorn tears.



    they're not? I smell class action lawsuit!

  • Reply 16 of 32
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 19,152member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jragosta View Post





    Your projections of energy usage are irrelevant. Apple has stated that 100% will come from renewable sources - so no one cares whether you think 8.4 MW is not a lot with respect to a data center. It's enough to run Apple's data center. BTW, not sure where your 8.4 MW comes from. Apple says they'll have 84 M kwhr total.


    Yes his calculations are incorrect: he is confusing units (one million kW = 1000 MW), and more importantly, he is confusing capacity (watts) with rate of usage (watt-hours). Without data that can enable us to calculate the capacity factor, we can't come up with the implied capacity.


     


    But it's certainly much larger than his 8.4MW under a wide range of possibilities. My guess is that the "effective" capacity is 12 - 18MW, while the actual capacity installed (given the efficiency of solar panels, number of days with sun, etc) is likely 3x to 4x of that. Just a broad guess.


     


    I do have one confusion with the claim in the article, though. How can this result in 100% renewable electricity, unless there is some massive energy storage installation that is also being put in place to produce power during nighttime (or when the sun does not shine sufficiently)? The 5MW Bloom machine does not seem large enough?

  • Reply 17 of 32
    gtrgtr Posts: 3,231member
    Greenpeace's media representative has just advised that 100 percent renewable energy is not enough, and that they will continue to harass Apple until they achieve 200%.
  • Reply 18 of 32
    jonoromjonorom Posts: 293member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post


    I do have one confusion with the claim in the article, though. How can this result in 100% renewable electricity, unless there is some massive energy storage installation that is also being put in place to produce power during nighttime (or when the sun does not shine sufficiently)? The 5MW Bloom machine does not seem large enough?



     Well, it would be easy as pie to buy sufficient additional renewable energy from the utility, and I suspect that is how they are doing it. It would make sense given the surprise attack on the design of this facility, which is "pretty green" but not green enough for Greenpeace and others.


     


    The added cost of the renewable power is likely judged by Apple to be worth the benefit in public relations. Too bad Apple didn't predict or understand the public's concern over this a few years ago. Some of their facility decisions under Jobs were less than holistic - visionary in certain terms (like the FORM of the Spaceship in Cupertino) but not by all of the important measures.


     


    But it must be kind of mortifying, given that Apple sited the facility here to take advantage of the cheap coal-generated electricity in NC.


     


    BTW, Greenpeace is probably at least partly responsible for this move by Apple. Which is a good thing, in my opinion. Industry leaders like Apple can help lead the way to a more sustainable future, and I am happy that they are.

  • Reply 19 of 32
    jonoromjonorom Posts: 293member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by ascii View Post


    It what sense in the Sun "renewable?" It will just burn for a fixed amount of time.





    I like your mid-term outlook on things. But not to worry, long term the Galaxy will continue to birth new suns for "us."

  • Reply 20 of 32
    zbarskyzbarsky Posts: 19member


    Meanwhile, Google to open a data centre in the Changhua Coastal Industrial Zone, Taiwan, which more than likely will be powered by this;


     


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


     


    The largest coal fired polluting power station in the world!

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