Apple’s Green Data Center
Last year Apple commissioned a new 500,000-square-foot data center in Maiden, North Carolina, which is now going green and going solar. The $1 billion facility will be reportedly the company’s largest data center, which will be supporting a wide variety of the company’s hot product portfolio including iTunes, iCloud, and Siri voice functionality in the iPhone 4S. This Apple data center will be designed as a LEED Platinum building, which is the second highest rating based on the US Green Building Council, as it will include various energy-efficient attributes involving chilled water storage, white cool-roofs, LED lighting, real-time power monitoring; plus recycled and locally-sourced materials.
Recently, Apple disclosed plans that its data farm in Maiden, NC, would be partly powered by a 20 megawatt (MW) solar system to support approximately 10 percent of its energy consumption. Also, this green power project will include a small fuel cell system, which may be supplied by another dynamic Silicon Valley based company, Bloom Energy. Analysis of this project filing with the North Carolina Utilities Commission has offered more details about the proposed 100+-acre project, including size, possible cost, and the main technology supplier.
The proposed solar farm, denoted as “Project Dolphin,” will incorporate approximately 14 photovoltaic (PV) installations using traditional, single crystalline silicon solar panels. SunPower will provide its E20 435-watt PV modules that are rated at about 20 percent efficiency with ground-mounted single-axis tracking systems. The Apple solar power project is expected to start delivering power to the grid for the local utility company, Duke Energy, as early as October 2012, while the overall project is planned for completion by the end of 2012.
In contrast to similar scale solar power projects, Apple will finance the green power installation from both current assets and ongoing operations amid its record-level of capital on hand and escalating stock price. Apple claimed in a Facilities Environmental Report that its North Carolina data center will represent the largest solar and fuel-cell end user-owned plants in the US based on current estimates.
Last month, Apple revealed plans to construct another green data center in Prineville, Oregon on a 160-acre plot of land purchased for $5.6 million. Thus, this appears to be a new trend for the company, which will ultimately have a major impact on the promotion of renewable energy for commercial projects in lieu of its immense clout globally. Anything Apple does receives world-wide attention, good or bad. At this time, Apple is able to capitalize on the historically-low prices for solar panels, partly induced by oversupply derived from China, while also generating much needed momentum for clean, solar energy, amid consolidation across the industry and the annihilation of government subsidies globally.
Apple product users will soon see the sunny side of their carbon footprint. Maybe solar-powered iphones are next?
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Brian Coppa, Ph.D., has authored many pending U.S. patents,international peer-reviewed journal articles, and industry analysespublications concerning electronic materials and devices and greentechnology, which have received numerous prestigious citations andgarnered numerous invited presentations across the U.S. He is a leadingsenior consultant for GLG Inc. regarding alternative energy andmicroelectronic applications.
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