Apple Generates its Own Power for Data Centres

Apple is generating its own clean source of electricity to power its data centres.
Published: Wed 30 Apr 2014

Last year, Apple said it planned to buy renewable energy on the wholesale market through the Direct Access program to meet its 100% clean energy goals at their Oregon data center. But now it seems that Apple has other plans-the company wants to generate its own power for the data centre.

Apple says that the Prineville data centre will be getting its own solar farm. The company is purchasing additional land to build the farm near the data center. Excess power from the solar project will be sold to the local utility.

On-site and independent

Apple used this method for its two 20 MW solar farms in North Carolina, and will probably do the same for its 137-acre solar farm in Reno, Nevada. This strategy- to work directly with the solar panel provider and project developer, SunPower, to build a solar system that is owned by Apple- is unusual in the Internet industry, particularly at the scale that Apple is doing it.

This move to independent power generation is in direct contrast to what companies like Google and Facebook are doing-these companies are setting up data centres in regions where power companies are providing clean power. The firms then buy the clean power from those facilities.

Worldwide, 75% of all Apple corporate facilities are powered by renewables and all of its data centers are close to achieving the 100% mark.

Self-generation is first choice

Apple plans to achieve its clean energy goals by generating its power from onsite self-generation facilities. The company aims to use fuel cells, solar PV and other renewable energy systems. According to Apple, the company will only buy renewable energy where it cannot produce renewable energy independently.

At some of Apple's data centers, which the company says have been powered with 100 percent renewable energy since last March, it's easy to see where the clean energy is coming from. For instance, right outside Apple's large data center in Maiden, North Carolina, is a sprawling 100-acre solar array. However, at other facilities, the clean power source is less evident because the company buys wind or solar energy on the wholesale market.

Apple takes the reduction of its carbon footprint very seriously but it is also important to note that self-generation is also a very wise business decision. Even though Apple will have to foot the bill for generation technology, land and maintenance, power will most certainly be cheaper and probably more reliable too.