Apple datacenters the most environmentally friendly in tech, says Greenpeace

Posted:
in General Discussion edited April 2014
Apple is "the most innovative and most aggressive" company in Silicon Valley when it comes to identifying ways to feed its power-hungry datacenters with renewable energy, according to a new report from environmental watchdog Greenpeace.

The solar cell installation at Apple's Maiden, NC datacenter. | Source: Apple
The solar cell installation at Apple's Maiden, NC datacenter. | Source: Apple


The iPhone maker scored an 'A' for energy transparency, commitment to renewable energy, and deployment thanks in large part to the fuel cell installation and solar farm at its datacenter in Maiden, N.C. Apple recorded a 'B' in the sole remaining category, energy efficiency and mitigation.

Greenpeace praised Apple for helping pressure local utilities to begin offering renewable options for buying energy, still a rarity even as environmental consciousness grows among consumers. All of the electricity not generated by Apple for its datacenters is purchased from through utilities from renewable sources, including geothermal plants for its newest location in Nevada and wind energy in California and Oregon.

"Apple's aggressive pursuit of its commitment to power the iCloud with 100% renewable energy has given the company the inside track among the IT sector's leaders in building a green Internet," Greenpeace wrote. "Apple has made good on its pledge by building the largest privately owned solar farms at its North Carolina data center, working with its utility in Nevada to power its upcoming data center there with solar and geothermal energy, and purchasing wind energy for its Oregon and California data centers."




Apple has improved its standing with Greenpeace significantly since the organization's last datacenter energy report in 2012. At that time, Apple was panned for relying largely on fossil fuels for power, scoring Ds and Fs in every category.

The company still has some room to improve in Greenpeace's eyes, however. The organization would like to see Apple contribute some of its energy findings back to the tech industry as a whole, saying that "sharing more detail about Apple's energy efficient designs would help the IT sector to learn from, and improve upon, Apple's best efficiency practices."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 39
    mr omr o Posts: 1,046member
    Please correct me, but someone at Microsoft told me that Apple's iCloud is making use of the Azure servers?

    So I am a bit surprised that Apple got such a high ranking. Which I would be genuinely happy about if true.
  • Reply 2 of 39
    tnsftnsf Posts: 203member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mr O View Post



    Please correct me, but someone at Microsoft told me that Apple's iCloud is making use of the Azure servers?



    So I am a bit surprised that Apple got such a high ranking. Which I would be genuinely happy about if true.

     

    It is not accurate to say that iCloud is running on Azure, because its not.  Apple has its own cloud built on infrastructure sourced from the worlds leading vendors.  Thats not to say that there isn't some piece of functionality somewhere at Apple that is using Azure, but its hardly worthy of a claim-to-fame for Microsoft.

  • Reply 3 of 39
    Screw Greenpeace.
    Nukes are clean energy.
  • Reply 4 of 39
    Where is IBM/Softlayer, Nevermind.
  • Reply 5 of 39
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Wow! I hadn't realized how far ahead of everyone they were which explains why Greenpeace would actually praise Apple.


    mr o wrote: »
    Please correct me, but someone at Microsoft told me that Apple's iCloud is making use of the Azure servers?

    So I am a bit surprised that Apple got such a high ranking. Which I would be genuinely happy about if true.


    Besides what [@]TNSF[/@] stated, it's not fair to pile any of Apple's services onto another company's use of equipment and electricity simply because it happens to traverse it. If that were the case then even checking your email would then require knowing every ISP router, switch, etc. as well how your your router, switch and local device get their power.
  • Reply 6 of 39
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,301member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by davebarnes View Post



    Screw Greenpeace.

    Nukes are clean energy.

     

    Interestingly there is now a fairly large segment of the environmentalist movement that is taking a second look at nuclear. It is clear to anyone who thinks about it that fossil fuels are not going away anytime soon. There will never be enough solar panels, or windmills, or fuel cells to power modern society. They simply don’t scale up and will always be add ons or backups to fossil fuel power plants. That’s where the nuclear option becomes the lesser of two evils option. Nuclear has its own set of risks and problems but, if designed and constructed to rigid guidelines, the risk can be dealt with. Nuclear doesn’t release greenhouse gases or air pollutants unless something goes wrong. Nuclear waste is the main issue and there will need to be new and innovative ideas on how to deal with that. Unfortunately the public has been  scared into paranoia about the nuclear option by the same environmentalists who are now taking that second look. 

  • Reply 7 of 39
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,656member
    What Greenpeace is now on apple side, what did global warming finally arrive and the US is covered in the Glacier again.

    I think their chart would be better if they showed nuclear as green, don't things that have been radiated glow green and Clean renewable should be blue to represent clear skies, also since solar panels only work in clear skies.

    there is no way to know how these companies get their power, unless they see their actual electric bill which Apple does not share no company share that information, it maybe self disclosed in a 10K or something similar bit greenpeace as usual is guessing at the numbers.
  • Reply 8 of 39
    tundraboytundraboy Posts: 1,622member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by davebarnes View Post



    Screw Greenpeace.

    Nukes are clean energy.

     

    Yeah!  Tell it to Fukushima and Chernobyl.

  • Reply 9 of 39
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    maestro64 wrote: »
    ...also since solar panels only work in clear skies there is no way to know how these companies get their power, unless they see their actual electric bill which Apple does not share no company share that information, it maybe self disclosed in a 10K or something similar bit greenpeace as usual is guessing at the numbers.

    The first grade indicates energy transparency. I have no idea to what degree they expect companies to be transparent about their energy use but there are several A's on the list.
  • Reply 10 of 39
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mr O View Post



    Please correct me, but someone at Microsoft told me that Apple's iCloud is making use of the Azure servers?



    So I am a bit surprised that Apple got such a high ranking. Which I would be genuinely happy about if true.

    You aren't correct *anymore*.

    When iCloud was starting up the data servers weren't operational yet so Apple needed to outsource to other data centers.

    This ended some time last year after both of its data centers, operating on 100% sustainable electricity, were fully online.

  • Reply 11 of 39
    john.bjohn.b Posts: 2,721member

    Google has a data center near here that sources all its power from a coal power plant, but they claim to buy "credits" from a wind farm hundreds of miles away, so that somehow makes them green?

     

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by davebarnes View Post



    Screw Greenpeace.

    Nukes are clean energy.

     

    Tell that to the people who lived near the Fukushima power plant.  You know, the ones who can never go back to their homes?

  • Reply 12 of 39
    john.bjohn.b Posts: 2,721member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mr O View Post



    Please correct me, but someone at Microsoft told me that Apple's iCloud is making use of the Azure servers?



    So I am a bit surprised that Apple got such a high ranking. Which I would be genuinely happy about if true.

     

    Did they also tell you most of Microsoft web servers used to run *nix instead of Windows/IIS?  Because that used to be true, too, but hasn't been for a few years now either...

     

    You might want to fact check your Microsofties a little more closely in the future.

  • Reply 13 of 39
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 19,372member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by John.B View Post

     

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by davebarnes View Post



    Screw Greenpeace.

    Nukes are clean energy.

     

    Tell that to the people who lived near the Fukushima power plant.  You know, the ones who can never go back to their homes?


    That's because Fukusima was 40 years old. That's like having our roads populated by Ford Pintos and claiming that Teslas as bad (OK.... an occasional one does catch fire.... :D)

     

    3rd ten nukes are incredibly safe, and yes, clean.

  • Reply 14 of 39
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 19,372member

    Wow. Tim Cook certainly seems to have done one thing that SJ could not do (not that it matters to me, but it's worth noting): He sure brought Greenpeace around!

  • Reply 15 of 39
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 19,372member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by tundraboy View Post

     
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by davebarnes View Post



    Screw Greenpeace.

    Nukes are clean energy.

     

    Yeah!  Tell it to Fukushima and Chernobyl.


    Chernobyl is the only serious nuclear power plant disaster we've had in almost three-quarters of a century of nuclear power. The reasons for that were incredibly poor, unsafe design under Communism.

     

    There is not a single death attributable to radiation from Fukushima.

     

    Unfortunately, other than for hydro, nuclear is currently (no pun intended) the only source of reliable, baseload CO2-free power.

  • Reply 16 of 39
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Chernobyl is the only serious nuclear power plant disaster we've had in almost three-quarters of a century of nuclear power. The reasons for that were incredibly poor, unsafe design under Communism.

    There is not a single death attributable to radiation from Fukushima.

    Unfortunately, other than for hydro, nuclear is currently (no pun intended) the only source of reliable, baseload CO2-free power.

    1) Three Mile Island doesn't count?

    2) I agree that nuclear is safe but compared to solar and wind it does have the potential for something to go terribly wrong that can affect the lives of millions in a given area and be an issue for a long time. Then there is the disposal of spent rods compared to the disposal of a damaged solar panel or wind turbine. For this reason I think that potential should be taken into account when talking about overall safety.
  • Reply 17 of 39
    tundraboytundraboy Posts: 1,622member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

     

    Chernobyl is the only serious nuclear power plant disaster we've had in almost three-quarters of a century of nuclear power. The reasons for that were incredibly poor, unsafe design under Communism.

     

    There is not a single death attributable to radiation from Fukushima.

     

    Unfortunately, other than for hydro, nuclear is currently (no pun intended) the only source of reliable, baseload CO2-free power.


     

    The problem is nuclear power proponents have always declared them all to be safe until they aren't.  That's because nuclear disasters are all black swan events, or one of those famous 'unknown unknowns'.   I'm not a knee-jerk anti nuke but I have the uneasy feeling that risk management models being used by the industry are faulty.  When event probabilities are vanishingly small but the costs of an adverse outcome are very, very large, calculations of expected benefits or costs get screwy, a natural result of playing around with zero and infinity.

     

    If we are going whole hog into nuclear power, I don't trust proponents who say 'there will be no more Chernobyls'.  And then, 'there will be no more Fukushimas', after that.  I prefer we go into it with the mindset that another nuclear accident is inevitable and thus make sure that the infrastructure and systems needed to cope with said accident are in place and properly trained, maintained, and updated.  This would also mean no nuclear plants on fault lines, next to the oceans, downwind of highly populated areas and valuable natural habitats, and in third world countries (because they cannot cope with a nuclear accident).  Also, before any major nuclear power build up, a major energy conservation effort (especially in the US!) to drastically reduce the demand for electricity.

     

    Assuming somebody has fixed the nuclear waste disposal problem in the first place.

  • Reply 18 of 39
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 19,372member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post



    1) Three Mile Island doesn't count?



    2) I agree that nuclear is safe but compared to solar and wind it does have the potential for something to go terribly wrong that can affect the lives of millions in a given area and be an issue for a long time. Then there is the disposal of spent rods compared to the disposal of a damaged solar panel or wind turbine. For this reason I think that potential should be taken into account when talking about overall safety.

    1) Absolutely not. TMI was a non-event. Period. Those are the facts.

     

    2) Solar is an incredibly dirty, toxic technology to produce. We feel virtuous putting up our PV panels, but all the filth has been outsourced to places like China. But more important, both wind and solar suffer from intermittence: the only honest way to compare these two with nuclear is to add the cost of storage (even without which, the cost of energy from those two are substantially higher than for nuclear). On top of that, they are not easily scaleable (and even if they were, there are huge land-use implications). Under the most of optimistic of forecasts for the next few decades (see, e.g., the most recent report from the most widely-accepted source for energy forecasts, the EIA: http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/ieo/index.cfm), these two will be nowhere close to meeting our energy needs. Perhaps they'll get to about one-eighth by 2040 (from about one-twelfth today).

     

    That said, I am not a fan of plutonium/uranium-based nuclear. I truly wish the world would aggressively move towards thorium (see, e.g., http://www.amazon.com/THORIUM-energy-cheaper-than-coal/dp/1478161299). But that's a longer debate....

  • Reply 19 of 39
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    1) Absolutely not. TMI was a non-event. Period. Those are the facts.

    2) Solar is an incredibly dirty, toxic technology to produce. We feel virtuous putting up our PV panels, but all the filth has been outsourced to places like China. But more important, both wind and solar suffer from intermittence: the only honest way to compare these two with nuclear is to add the cost of storage (even without which, the cost of energy from those two are substantially higher than for nuclear). On top of that, they are not easily scaleable (and even if they were, there are huge land-use implications). Under the most of optimistic of forecasts for the next few decades (see, e.g., the most recent report from the most widely-accepted source for energy forecasts, the EIA: http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/ieo/index.cfm), these two will be nowhere close to meeting our energy needs. Perhaps they'll get to about one-eighth by 2040 (from about one-twelfth today).

    That said, I am not a fan of plutonium/uranium-based nuclear. I truly wish the world would aggressively move towards thorium (see, e.g., http://www.amazon.com/THORIUM-energy-cheaper-than-coal/dp/1478161299). But that's a longer debate....

    Thanks for the reply. I'll have to read up on 3MI to find out more about it. I was very young when it occurred so my knowledge of its history is only the sensational aspects that seems to linger.


    PS: What is the difference in half-life of sensationalism v actual news.
  • Reply 20 of 39
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 19,372member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by tundraboy View Post

     

    The problem is nuclear power proponents have always declared them all to be safe until they aren't.  That's because nuclear disasters are all black swan events, or one of those famous 'unknown unknowns'.   I'm not a knee-jerk anti nuke but I have the uneasy feeling that risk management models being used by the industry are faulty.  When event probabilities are vanishingly small but the costs of an adverse outcome are very, very large, calculations of expected benefits or costs get screwy, a natural result of playing around with zero and infinity.

     

    If we are going whole hog into nuclear power, I don't trust proponents who say 'there will be no more Chernobyls'.  And then, 'there will be no more Fukushimas', after that.  I prefer we go into it with the mindset that another nuclear accident is inevitable and thus make sure that the infrastructure and systems needed to cope with said accident are in place and properly trained, maintained, and updated.  This would also mean no nuclear plants on fault lines, next to the oceans, downwind of highly populated areas and valuable natural habitats, and in third world countries (because they cannot cope with a nuclear accident).  Also, before any major nuclear power build up, a major energy conservation effort (especially in the US!).

     

    Assuming somebody has fixed the nuclear waste disposal problem in the first place.


    I agree with your points. But you're conflating with what we have in place (ridiculously ancient, zeroth generation technology, often poorly risk-managed) with what we could be replacing it with: as I said earlier, it's like suggesting we should jettison automobiles altogether because our roads are populated with Ford Pintos, when we have Teslas available.

     

    Nuclear technology -- esp. with the passive safety features of 3rd and 3.5th generation, not to mention some of the fabulous fourth generation tech that is perhaps a decade away) -- has come a very long way.

     

    In fact, I worry that, in a country like the US, we're sitting on 100+ first gen nuclear reactors, each a potential Fukushima waiting to happen. (People don't realize that 25% of US's electricity currently comes from these aging behemoths, that we have 25% of the world's nuclear reactors, the largest number of any country on earth.)

     

    It's potentially a phenomenal opportunity -- for employment creation, infrastructure upgrades, GHG abatement, massive value-creation in upstream and downstream businesses -- for the US to convert these 100+ into 3.5 (or higher) gen over the next couple of decades. Each one costs $5B - $10B to build, and takes 8 - 10 years from groud-breaking to produce the first kWh of electricity. In other words, we should be starting now if we want our power by 2025.

     

    Note that I am not even talking about adding any new nuclear capacity in countries like the US. If ours start to fail -- as they will, and hopefully, with less impact than even Fukushima -- I can assure you that we do not have a Plan B, except for coal and natural gas.

     

    At least, it's worth having that debate about the type of energy policy we need as a country.

     

    Add: Disposal is currently an issue. But safe reprocessing-on-site is the genius of emerging 4th gen technologies. See, for example, what this company, TerraPower (in which, Bill Gates is a huge investor) does: http://terrapower.com. You might be amazed to know that we currently throw away nuclear rods after just 0.8% of the energy is extracted from the rods! 

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