Thursday, July 4, 2013

Not Falling Far From The Tree, Apple Shows Its Renewable Energy Commitment

The recent announcement by the Obama administration that it was focusing its sights back on the twin targets of climate change and renewable energy drew a mixed response from all sides of the environmental spectrum. However, with more high-profile companies looking to cement their green reputation and devote engineering resources to sustainable energy practices, it could be argued that the timing was perfect.
According to Reuters, Apple has confirmed its commitment to alternative energy sources with the California-based tech firm planning to build a large solar farm in Reno, Nevada. Some technology companies have come under fire in recent months for the levels of energy required to run data centers, with Amazon and Microsoft being highlighted alongside Apple for their high consumption rates, much of which is directly linked to internet traffic and the need to keep state-of-the-art servers cool.
Renewable energy commitment
The decision by Apple to ramp up its renewable commitment is just one of several attempts by the firm to make the most of ongoing engineering advances in solar technology, with the new farm expected to generate a significant amount of clean energy that will be used to power the Nevada facility. The tech giant already runs its largest data center in the United States on solar power, with a 100-acre farm in Maiden, North Carolina, currently producing around 167 million kilowatt hours of electricity - the equivalent of power generation to 17,600 homes for one year.
"All of Apple's data centers use 100% renewable energy, and we are on track to meet that goal in our new Reno data center using the latest in high-efficiency concentrating solar panels," said a spokesman for Apple, in a statement released to various media sources. "When completed, the 137-acre solar array will generate approximately 43.5 million kilowatt hours of clean energy, equivalent to taking 6,400 passenger vehicles off the road per year."
The company has not disclosed the cost of building the Reno solar farm, but it is expected to be similar to the $1 billion spent on the North Carolina facility. According to The Wall Street Journal, the project will take close to eight months to complete, with the firm disclosing that around 35 people will be staffing the solar-powered data center.
The engineering resources project will be undertaken in collaboration with NV Energy, a local utility company that is currently in the process of being purchased by Berkshire Hathaway's MidAmerican Energy - the first foray into solar energy by noted investor and entrepreneur Warren Buffet. According to the news source, the Nevada facility will play a key role in the company-wide commitment to alternative energy, something that Apple's peers such as Google have been keen to emulate.
Green credentials
In fact, Google has already spent more than one billion dollars on a variety of renewable energy engineering research projects - including solar and wind - with the company announcing in January of this year that it would be building a 160 megawatt wind farm in Texas at a cost of $200 million. According to the WSJ, the firm has also invested $280 million in home rooftop solar panels, while four solar farms in Sacramento, California, with a combined capacity of 88 megawatts were completed in 2011.
Apple has constantly touted its green credentials, with many of its best-selling tech products noted for their recycling ability, while the company itself has pledged to run its entire operation on renewable energy - either generated by its own sources or through energy purchased through the electrical grid, a stance that has been applauded by environmental groups.
"The detailed disclosure that Apple gave (today) can give confidence to Apple's millions of users that the company is powering its corner of the Internet with clean energy," said David Pomerantz, a spokesman for Greenpeace in a statement to the WSJ.