Green Apple & Facebook Data Centers

Posted by Sam Churchill on

None of three Apple’s data centers — including an existing facility in California, one in North Carolina, and one being built in Prineville, Oregon — will use power produced by coal, Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer said in an interview.

Apple says that its new $1 billion data center in North Carolina will be powered entirely with renewable energy by the end of the year.

Apple’s data center in Maiden, North Carolina, will draw about 20 megawatts of power at full capacity.

“We’ll be producing an unprecedented 60 percent of this power onsite. To do that, we’re building what will be the nation’s largest private solar arrays and the largest non-utility fuel cell installation operating anywhere in the country,” said Oppenheimer. Once operational, the solar farm will supply 84 million kWh of energy annually.

Apple reiterated its plan to generate 60 percent of the Maiden facility’s power itself, through a large deployment of fuel cells at the site and a 100-acre solar farm located across the street. Fuel cells are able to turn biogases, which can be taken from sources such as landfills, into electricity.

The company provided additional detail today, saying it is finishing the purchase of a 150-acre site, two miles away. Once these projects are completed, Apple will generate 124 million kilowatt-hours of power a year, enough to power 10,874 homes. While Apple’s California data center doesn’t generate power on-site, it will use only renewable sources by February 2013. The Oregon facility will open using only renewable energy, Oppenheimer said.

“We haven’t finalized our plans for on-site generation [in Oregon], but any power we need to run our center in Prineville that we get from the grid will be 100 percent renewable and locally generated sources,” the Apple CFO said.

Greenpeace in a report last month singled out Apple, Amazon and Twitter for not using enough clean energy. The Green Peace report gave better grades to Google, Yahoo! and Facebook -which are powered in part by renewable sources such as water and wind.

Apple’s 31-megawatt data center in Prineville will use enough energy to power five cities of Prineville’s size, according to The Oregonian. Facebook’s Open Data Center initiative and Facebook’s Open Compute Initiative says their open hardware design is 38% more efficient and 24% less expensive to build and run than other state-of-the-art data centers.

On the Columbia River, ZeaChem is building a cellulosic biorefinery in Boardman, producing bio-based fuels and chemicals from woody biomass and agricultural residues. The company completed construction of a pilot facility and will ship the fuel down river on barges, through the Port of Morrow.

ZeaChem uses a natural bacterium, acetogen, found in termites, to break down biomass. The bacterium ferments cellulose into acetic acid, which is made into ethanol. No carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, is produced in the fermentation.

Google today released an animation that answers the question: what happens when I press send on Gmail? The company created the interactive feature called The Story of Send to highlight the security and relatively low energy footprint of its data centers. Google data centers are some of the most energy efficient in the world and have long-term commitments to buy renewable energy.

Additional articles include my Green Power for Columbia River Data Centers and Portland Wiki section on Green Industry.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Friday, May 18th, 2012 at 1:03 pm .

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