Apple Data Center Will Be Totally Green by 2013

Grading work continues at the site of the solar farm Apple is building in Maiden, North Carolina, Tuesday, April 2, 2012. Apple announced that it plans to build the nations biggest non-utility fuel cell facility on the site. Photograph by Jeff Willhelm/Charlotte Observer/MCT/Zuma Press  Close

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Grading work continues at the site of the solar farm Apple is building in Maiden, North Carolina, Tuesday, April 2, 2012. Apple announced that it plans to build the nations biggest non-utility fuel cell facility on the site. Photograph by Jeff Willhelm/Charlotte Observer/MCT/Zuma Press 

Apple Inc. (AAPL), targeted by Greenpeace International over its energy consumption, said its 500,000- square-foot data center in Maiden, North Carolina, will be powered entirely by renewable sources by the end of the year.

The move, announced today on Apple’s website, follows protests at the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, California, and elsewhere. Greenpeace demonstrators criticized the world’s largest technology company for using too much coal.

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

“We are leading the industry,” he said. “All three of our data centers will be coal free, which is an industry first for anybody of our size.”

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.

Renewable Energy

The remaining 40 percent of power needed at the Maiden data center will come from providers of renewable energy in the region, Oppenheimer said.

Apple is installing solar panels from San Jose, California- based SunPower Corp. (SPWR) at the 100-acre site, he said. It is using fuel cells from Bloom Energy Corp., a closely held company based in Sunnyvale, California.

While Apple’s California data center doesn’t generate power on-site, it will use only renewable sources by February 2013, he said. The Oregon facility will open using only renewable energy, Oppenheimer said.

Greenpeace in a report last month singled out Apple, Amazon.com Inc. and Twitter Inc. for not using enough clean energy. The report gave better grades to Google Inc., Yahoo! Inc. and Facebook Inc. -- all companies that have facilities powered in part by renewable sources such as water and wind, according to Greenpeace.

Oppenheimer declined to say whether the changes were a response to the Greenpeace report or protests. He stressed that Apple’s plans have been in place since last year.

“Apple’s announcement today is a great sign that Apple is taking seriously the hundreds of thousands of its customers who have asked for an iCloud powered by clean energy, not dirty coal,” Gary Cook, an analyst at Greenpeace International, said in a statement.

Apple runs its iCloud online synchronization service, among other activities, from the Maiden facility.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Burrows in San Francisco at pburrows@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net

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