Apple is building two solar arrays and biogas fuel cell installation
“By the end of 2012, we’ll meet the energy needs of our Maiden, North Carolina, data center using entirely renewable sources. To achieve this, we’re building our own facilities that will provide over 60 percent of the clean power we need.” – announced Apple on their web page.
Construction of the Apple’s first solar array in Maiden, across the street from the Apple’s data center, is almost completed. This 20 MW (megawatt) silicon solar photovoltaic farm will generate 42 million kWh (kilowatt-hours) of renewable energy per year, using high-efficiency solar cells and an advanced solar tracking system.
Few miles away another 100-acre site is bought for the Apple’s second solar array. It is planned to build another energy efficient 20 MW silicon solar photovoltaic array that will produce another 42 million kWh of clean solar energy yearly.
According to Apple, “(they) are building what will be the nation’s largest private solar arrays and the largest non-utility fuel cell installation operating anywhere in the country.”
This solar photovoltaic installation shows their intention to reduce environmental impact and carbon footprint. Furthermore, Apple says: “While we’ll produce 60 percent of the power used by our Maiden data center onsite, we’ll meet the remaining 40 percent of our energy needs by directly purchasing clean, renewable energy generated by local and regional sources.”
As part of the company’s renewable energy strategy, Apple is building a 5 MW biogas fuel cell installation at Maiden Data Center. It will be powered by 100% biogas, and provide more than 40 million kWh of 24×7 baseload renewable energy annually.
According to a report by the News & Observer of Raleigh, the facility will likely utilise biogas from landfill and qualify as a renewable facility. While Apple has not officially commented the technology partner for the project, GigaOM website reported that it is “pretty sure” it will be Bloom Energy, the California based fuel cell manufacturer. Regarding to them, the greatest potential of any fuel cell technology has Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFCs) due to their low cost ceramic materials and extremely high electrical efficiencies. Furthermore, the electrochemical reaction converts fuel and air into electricity without combustion.
To reduce greenhouse gas emission and contribute more to positive environmental change, Apple took some other sustainable steps. At their facilities there are lots of examples of passive solar design, such as the white cool-roof at the Maiden data center that provides maximum solar reflectivity and thus contributes to the efficiency of its cooling system. A chilled-water system, use of outside air cooling, extreme precision in management of cooling distribution are further examples of modern energy-efficient design as a necessity for cooling-intensive, heavy energy consumption data centers.
Power distributed at higher voltages increases efficiency, high-efficiency LED lighting combined with motion sensors save electricity usage. To act even more sustainable, during the construction they have been using recycled materials, diverted construction waste from landfills, and purchased local materials. Some of their facilities around the world are already using 100% renewable energy (like Austin in Texas, California, Ireland, Germany). By doing this, they have reduced annual carbon footprint by 30.000 metric tons of CO2 emissions.