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Apple Commits To 100% Renewable Energy Sources for NC Data Center 108

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the hippie-fired-power-plant dept.
judgecorp writes "Stung by continued criticism from Greenpeace and protests at Apple's headquarters over its use of electricity from non-renewable sources, Apple has promised that its data center in Maiden, North Carolina will use 100 percent renewable electricity, 60 percent of it generated by Apple itself. The update is possible because it is building a second giant solar array, and because its data center only needs 20MW at full capacity, instead of the 100MW which Greenpeace had estimated."
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Apple Commits To 100% Renewable Energy Sources for NC Data Center

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  • But... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by biodata (1981610)
    is the solar array built using renewable energy?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ifwm (687373)
      It's coal and oil all the way down...
    • Re:But... (Score:5, Funny)

      by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @11:38AM (#40051415)

      Yes, the Chinese work force who built the solar panels is quite renewable.

    • Re:But... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MtHuurne (602934) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @11:53AM (#40051515) Homepage

      The array will produce far more energy during its lifetime than was used to produce and install it. So while it would be nice if it was built with renewable energy, it's not all that important.

      • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

        by biodata (1981610)
        That's good to hear, but unless it generates more energy than the plant needs, to the point where it exceeds the plant's requirements by enough to recover the energy used to make it, then it undermines the claim that the plant uses 100% renewable energy.
        • by MtHuurne (602934)

          They probably mean 100% renewable energy during operation, excluding construction.

        • by mysidia (191772)

          That's good to hear, but unless it generates more energy than the plant needs, to the point where it exceeds the plant's requirements by enough to recover the energy used to make it

          It probably will. If they intend to be 100% renewable; there must be some spare capacity to cope with upgrades and peak usage.

          They presumably also need backup power sources, such as a grid backup, or emergency generators.

          So to be "100% renewable" they'll need to estimate their annual usage of that, to make sure

      • Re:But... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by niftydude (1745144) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @12:43PM (#40051905)

        The array will produce far more energy during its lifetime than was used to produce and install it.

        I wouldn't say far more.

        It takes about 10 years for a typical silicon solar cell to generate the amount of energy that was used in the cell's production. The typical lifetime of the cell is about 25 years. So these types of cells only produce about 2.5 times as much energy as was needed for its production.

        There are other solar cells such as organics that take less energy to produce, but because they have a much shorter lifespan, they aren't that much better from this point of view, and they don't get used in large arrays like this one.

        The upshot is that the situation with solar cells is not yet as good as we would like it to be, and I don't think that we should be recommending large uptake of solar cells as a truly environmental solution until there is an large improvement in energy required to energy produced ratio.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by AmiMoJo (196126)

          The upshot is that the situation with solar cells is not yet as good as we would like it to be, and I don't think that we should be recommending large uptake of solar cells as a truly environmental solution until there is an large improvement in energy required to energy produced ratio.

          2.5 times as much generated as put into production is still infinitely better than "burn a load of coal" or "produce a load of nuclear waste". It is a net gain, and drives investment and improvement in the technology. We should encourage it as much as possible.

          • by mysidia (191772)

            2.5 times as much generated as put into production is still infinitely better than "burn a load of coal" or "produce a load of nuclear waste".

            "Load of Nuclear waste" is an artificial thing created by the ban against recycling nuclear wastes, out of concern that the plutonium produced by said recycling might fall into the wrong hands.

            Nuclear power generation properly implemented is much more efficient than either Coal fired plants, OR manufacture of solar cells, and produces only Tiny amounts of wa

      • Otherwise known as EROEI, or Energy Returned On Energy Invested:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_returned_on_energy_invested [wikipedia.org]

    • Re:But... (Score:4, Funny)

      by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @11:58AM (#40051533)

      is the solar array built using renewable energy?

      No, but it IS being constructed by highly-paid union dolphins, so Greenpeace is fine with that.

    • Re:But... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SolusSD (680489) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @12:33PM (#40051811) Homepage
      would it be better to consume coal energy for the life of the datacenter, or spend a bit of (possibly dirty) energy to build renewable alternatives?
      • by biodata (1981610)
        The answer to this question depends how much non-renewable energy is used to build the renewable alternatives. You could imagine super efficient solar collectors, built out of materials that take so much energy to mine out of the ground and process that they would never recover their own energy production cost. This might still be economical to do, because energy costs always increase, so anything that can recover its own energy cost will be economical in the long run, because if it is still gathering ener
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 19, 2012 @11:21AM (#40051313)
    I'm SHOCKED!
    • by jellomizer (103300) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @11:27AM (#40051351)

      We really need to stop giving Greenpeace press. They just make things worse.
      I am for more environmental conscious companies. However Greenpeace with its lies and over exaggerations, make it seem companies who are trying to do the right thing are doing nearly enough, or give estimates that a company knows it cannot meet, so may just scrap the whole idea. or because they are being called the environmental bad guys even when they did the good thing, they will not try to improve their press relations much on that topic.
       

      • by geekmux (1040042)

        We really need to stop giving Greenpeace press. They just make things worse. I am for more environmental conscious companies. However Greenpeace with its lies and over exaggerations, make it seem companies who are trying to do the right thing are doing nearly enough, or give estimates that a company knows it cannot meet, so may just scrap the whole idea. or because they are being called the environmental bad guys even when they did the good thing, they will not try to improve their press relations much on that topic.

        I'll take 10 Greenpeace Orgs any day over the utter stupidity surrounding global warming. Greenpeace looks as tame as a cat lovers convention by comparison.

        • by Mashiki (184564)

          I'll take 10 Greenpeace Orgs any day over the utter stupidity surrounding global warming. Greenpeace looks as tame as a cat lovers convention by comparison.

          Really? Before or after they decided they want everyone to go back to the darkages to live? Well they're not as bad as David Suzuki, but still pretty bad.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Jeremi (14640)

        We really need to stop giving Greenpeace press. They just make things worse.

        Unless you think that getting Apple to move to 100% renewable power is making things worse, it's hard to see how you arrived at the above conclusion from this article. It seems to me that this was a win all around.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by gnasher719 (869701)

          Unless you think that getting Apple to move to 100% renewable power is making things worse, it's hard to see how you arrived at the above conclusion from this article. It seems to me that this was a win all around.

          Do you really, really think that Apple would do anything because of Greenpeace? Greenpeace has been attacking Apple for years, after Apple refused to donate money to the worthy cause. And again and again their attacks have been proven to be completely clueless.

          If Apple is using 100% renewable power for some data centre, then the only reason for that is that they planned to do exactly that from the start.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Yes, I do think Apple did things because of Greenpeace. But they aren't reacting to Greenpeace.

            Greenpeace is stupid and predictable. Apple had to have known how they would react since, as you note, they've been attacked by Greenpeace for years. Apple simply planned ahead. This was a win on every front for Apple and makes Greenpeace look stupid (not that they need help with that).

            This is exactly what I would do to discredit a critic if I were Apple.

          • by data2 (1382587)

            While it might not be the case in the US, Greenpeace is highly respected in many parts of the world, so the danger to image is real.

            Also, Greenpeace would never accept money from Apple as it is a corporation.

            • Also, Greenpeace would never accept money from Apple as it is a corporation.

              I know that Greenpeace says that they will not accept money from corporations, but they do not reveal where their money actually comes from, so we only have their word for that.

        • by jo_ham (604554) <joham999&gmail,com> on Saturday May 19, 2012 @12:57PM (#40051987)

          Greenpeace didn't "get" Apple to do that though, Apple were doing that anyway.

          Greenpeace just came along and accused them of lying about the numbers, then when Apple put out a press release gently correcting them, and also talking about a second data centre also targeted to be powered fully by renewable, Greenpeace can now sweep in and claim all the credit for "keeping Apple honest" and "making big companies think about being green" when really they were doing it anyway.

          Much like the very low score Greenpeace gave Apple on their "greenness" chart thing (and much lower than other companies that were nowhere near as green as Apple) because they simply hadn't done the research. For example, HP scoring big green points for making a plan to decide on when to remove BFRs from their products, and Apple scoring very low for no plan... but they'd already eliminated use of BFRs in their products 2 years before. And the same with reduced use of lead, and expanded polystyrene, and PVC in cables etc. Then when Apple releases a press release all about this, Greenpeace claim that they are the ones making Apple behave responsibly.

          Greenpeace are doing more to hurt the green cause than helping it. There's only so many times you can be a dick - like soliciting donations that will directly fun criminal damage - before people start getting turned off the message, which is the last thing we want.

          I'm as pro-green as they come - my future doctoral work will be into sustainable energy and catalytic water splitting etc - but I want absolutely nothing to do with Greenpeace. They do not represent me.

        • Unless you think that getting Apple to move to 100% renewable power is making things worse, it's hard to see how you arrived at the above conclusion from this article. It seems to me that this was a win all around.

          You think it's win/win.

          Yet everything is as it was. Apple as noted was already going the solar path. So Greenpeace wasted YOUR money in an effort to get Apple doing something that was happening already.

          Furthermore my people like you declaring "win" it takes all the heat off every other company t

      • by Xest (935314)

        The problem with Greenpeace is that it doesn't always lie.

        It was quite right regarding the whales, and has been quite succesful as a result.

        Obviously on nuclear it's almost entirely wrong though.

        But I disagree that we should stop listening to them because a) it means there's a counterbalance to the massive fossil fuel lobby that due to their past successes, people listen to, and b) I don't think most companies are doing nearly enough, most carbon neutral schemes are actually complete bollocks and don't actu

        • If an organization lies half the time and tells the truth the other half. You really shouldn't listen to them because you never know if it is a lie or not.
          There are other organizations out there that are more honest. Listen to them... They may say the same thing as Greenpeace or they may say something else. Listening to them empowers them, and then they talk more with more 50% lies and 50% truth, confusing the general public and giving the GOP excuses to make the Liberals seem out of touch and just a bunc

          • by Xest (935314)

            "If an organization lies half the time and tells the truth the other half. You really shouldn't listen to them because you never know if it is a lie or not."

            Really? Yet many people listen to everyone from Apple to the media every single day despite being guilty of a far larger proportion of lies in their press releases. It's a sad truth, but if you don't lie some of the time then you're fighting a battle with one armed tied behind your back. Telling organisations not to lie is akin to telling them not to tr

  • ...couldn't keep the environmentalists out.

    (I'm so sorry.)
  • If you protest you get your way, even when it doesn't make fiscal sense.

    Great lesson.

    • by bakuun (976228)

      If you protest you get your way, even when it doesn't make fiscal sense.

      Fiscal sense is not the only type of sense worth pursuing.

      • by nurb432 (527695)

        It is if you want to grow your business. Screw the 'greenies'.

        • by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @01:43PM (#40052333)
          You mean "screw your neighbours and the future generation, I waaaaaant profit now, mum!!! WAAAAH!". Thankfully, most people exceed that maturity level by age of 6 or so.
          • by nurb432 (527695)

            No, that isn't what i said. If you are capable, re-read my post and you will see i said something far different.

            • No, that isn't what i said. If you are capable, re-read my post and you will see i said something far different

              ... and stupider.

              • by nurb432 (527695)

                Go hug that tree and leave us adults be.

                • You're getting stupider by the minute.

    • Re:Lesson learned (Score:4, Informative)

      by biodata (1981610) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @12:06PM (#40051587)
      'Fiscal sense' got us in the shit in the first place.
      • by ifwm (687373)
        I disagree, without "fiscal sense" Apple wouldn't exist to go green in the first place.
        • Apple isn't what it is because of accountants and MBAs. Apple is where it is because it brought the liberal arts in to product design. And unlike most companies didn't allow accountants and MBAs to penny pinch.

          Having a datacentre powered with renewables fits perfectly with Apple's business model.

    • by mysidia (191772)

      If you protest you get your way, even when it doesn't make fiscal sense.

      You assume it doesn't make fiscal sense, BUT: Who says it doesn't make fiscal sense what they are doing?
      Surely there are some tax incentives and other benefits for Apple to make this choice.

      Electricity has been getting more expensive, and generating your own helps make costs more predictable, and less influenced by outside elements, especially if you anticipate the market price will be increasing in the future, AND there is a con

  • foo (Score:2, Interesting)

    by AWeishaupt (917501)
    Bloom Energy's fuel cells run on methane (natural gas) drilled and/or hydrofractured out of the ground, and they react this methane with atmospheric oxygen to yield carbon dioxide which they vent to the atmosphere. The system's thermodynamic efficiency is scarcely higher than a conventional Brayton-cycle gas turbine. As with the rest of the natural gas industry, they've been quite successful in greenwashing their fossil fuel industry. So, how is it exactly that this is "renewable energy"? Anyway, I wouldn
    • Re:foo (Score:5, Insightful)

      by UnknowingFool (672806) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @12:01PM (#40051553)
      Bloom Energy fuel cells can run on any hydrocarbon gas like propane, butane, methane, etc. It has different efficiencies based on the gas. In Apple's case they are attempting to use waste gas coming from a landfill which is mostly methane. It's not renewable per se but much greener than drilling. The renewable was the solar array (which they already built one). This news is for the second array which will increase the amount of green energy the plant uses. I think however Apple was planning this all along as they provisioned for it in their site design. Greenpeace wants to take credit for making Apple do it when they were always going to do it.
      • Re:foo (Score:5, Informative)

        by dkf (304284) <donal.k.fellows@manchester.ac.uk> on Saturday May 19, 2012 @12:35PM (#40051833) Homepage

        In Apple's case they are attempting to use waste gas coming from a landfill which is mostly methane. It's not renewable per se but much greener than drilling.

        It's enormously better than the alternatives. The landfill is producing methane gas anyway (dumping organic matter tends to make that happen) so it's not like it is being specially produced. What's more, methane is a hugely more powerful gas than carbon dioxide when it comes to generating global warming; it's far more efficient at trapping heat itself, it catalyzes the generation of ozone in the atmosphere (itself a heat-trapping gas, as well as otherwise general Bad News when in the troposphere) and eventually it breaks down all the way to CO2 anyway. Far better to burn the methane that would have been otherwise vented and get some useful power out of it than just about any other alternative you can think of (and the second best alternative is actually to just burn that methane as it is produced). Of course, if it was possible to prevent the formation of the methane in the first place then that would potentially be better still, but that's not a realistic option.

        In short, whether or not you consider it a renewable option is moot; it's definitely the green option.

        • by Solandri (704621)
          Landfill gas (methane), wood-burning, and biofuels are classified as renewables. There's a tendency for people to think that "gives off CO2 = not renewable". Renewable just means the net mass balance is zero - after all is said and done, you've left the chemical compounds in the same place they started at. In the case of landfill gas and burning wood and biofuels, the carbon in the CO2 released was originally extracted from CO2 in the atmosphere by plants as a part of photosynthesis a few years or decade
    • So, how is it exactly that this is "renewable energy"?

      Oil? Natural gas?

      Pigs. I mean, landfills. Landfillshit. The lights, vehicles, all powered by a high energy gas called methane. Methane comes from landfillshit.

      It's called Underworld. It's where Bartertown gets its energy. And don't forget, bust a deal, face the wheel.

  • North Carolina (Score:3, Informative)

    by cosm (1072588) <thecosm3@EEEgmail.com minus threevowels> on Saturday May 19, 2012 @11:36AM (#40051407)
    I live in Raleigh, NC, and for those who have a jaundiced perspective of the south I would like to say that this region is booming in terms of technology-centric business. We have research triangle park with many large corps, labs, data-centers, and rising businesses. We get many migrants from silicon valley who come this way for the better tax benefits and all that jazz. It's a beautiful state. Moving here from Illinois has been great for me and my family.

    We also get many business from the DC beltline area and the Virginia tech-sector as well, so there's a lot of growth here in that regard. With the ocean on our east coast and Appalachia on the west, it's a pretty sweet state. Of course there are your stereotypical types, your poor areas, your up-close-and-personal political issues, corruption, et al, but compared to some of our neighboring states down here NC has a very modern feel (SC I'm looking at you!). "North Carina is best Carina!" as some like to say :) Anecdotal, of course, but if you're looking for a city to move to in the south, The Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area has its benefits.
    • by FauxPasIII (75900)

      > I live in Raleigh, NC, and for those who have a jaundiced perspective of the south I would like to say that this region is booming in terms of technology-centric business

      You know, maybe it's because I've always lived to the south of you (Atlanta), but I never really applied the negative southern stereotype to North Carolina, not until you amended your constitution just a couple weeks ago.

      It will be interesting to see how that decision affects the state in the medium term... stereotypes and reputation l

      • by khallow (566160)

        You know, maybe it's because I've always lived to the south of you (Atlanta), but I never really applied the negative southern stereotype to North Carolina, not until you amended your constitution just a couple weeks ago.

        Even California did the same in 2008. I don't like it, but it's not a good measure of a state's attitudes.

  • by Nyder (754090) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @11:44AM (#40051449) Journal

    1. Build Giant Hamster wheel, connect to power grid.
    2. Tell Foxconn employess you have a better job for them.
    3. ...
    4. Profit!!!
    5. Fight Lawsuits.

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      Surely just easier to install a bucket wheel on the side of the Foxconn plant that rotates as it catches a suicidal jumper. Connect output shaft to generator. Profit?

    • by hey! (33014)

      Actually it will be a water wheel. Apple's new renewable energy source: the tears of Chinese workers.

  • Stung by? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by UnknowingFool (672806) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @11:48AM (#40051475)
    WTH? Apple's first response to Greenpeace was something along the lines of "Bullshit. They don't know jack." Reading the article, it looks like Apple caved into Greenpeace's demands. If the reporter had followed Apple's proposal from the beginning, Apple had always proposed a solar array for the site. They also were planning to use landfill gas as another means of energy. Apple never disclosed how much energy the site would be required and how much would be fueled by green power but Apple estimated the center would use 20MW. Greenpeace in their vast inner knowledge of technology estimated Apple would use 100MW. Greenpeace based their estimate solely on how much Apple paid for the total cost of construction. Greenpeace never factored in that part of the construction cost was the solar array (which are expensive) and other non-server related costs. Instead of acknowledging that calculating power based on total construction cost instead of server costs was a miscalculation, Greenpeace acted as if they did something to change Apple's minds. All they did was make fools of themselves. Apple like other tech companies are interested in green power like solar and power efficiency. Part of it is being a good corporate citizen, and part of it is that it saves them money.
    • by Kaenneth (82978)

      Just like with Global Warming; it it gets warmer "We warned you!", if it doesn't "Yay! we saved the world!"

      Global Warming isn't Science, because it's not falsifiable (in their minds)

  • what "estimate"??? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sribe (304414) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @11:52AM (#40051511)

    Greenpeace did not estimate anything. They pulled a number out of their asses.

    Now of course they'll try to take credit for Apple's "change of heart". Even though the Apple announcement clarifies that the reason they're going from 50% to 100% is that they have now, after presumably months of work on it, been able to acquire an additional 100 acres (40 hectares) of land for a second solar array.

  • by wisebabo (638845) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @12:18PM (#40051695) Journal

    Since Apple announced "their planned solar array" just "days after Greenpeace's protest" it is clear Greenpeace didn't push them into doing anything (except maybe making their press release earlier). You don't spec, design, budget and plan a multi-megawatt facility in a few days.

    I'm as green/liberal as any other guy (supported Gore, yada yada) but this Apple bashing just because they're Apple is stupid. Why don't people make a fuss about Google or Facebook? Likewise I like my non-Apple electronics (my hi-def TV says "SAMSUNG") but don't people get the fact that EVERYBODY makes their electronics in Chinese sweatshops and that the working conditions at Apple suppliers are probably the best? That's why there are thousands of "apple-icants" whenever there's openings at Foxconn's plants making Apple products. Nobody ever focuses on the fact that ALL the other global electronics makers are building their stuff at places where the conditions are most likely considerably worse (not to mention the second and third tier companies).

    • Why don't people make a fuss about Google or Facebook? Likewise I like my non-Apple electronics (my hi-def TV says "SAMSUNG") but don't people get the fact that EVERYBODY makes their electronics in Chinese sweatshops and that the working conditions at Apple suppliers are probably the best?

      Because the hipsters using Apple products want desperately to believe that Apple is indeed somehow 'better' than all those others. When they find out it isn't (FOXCONN) they lash out.
      They don't call out the other compan
      • you hate Apple because someone with a nicer haircut than you likes their iPhone. That doesn't make you a rebel, it makes you a douchebag.

      • Because the hipsters using Apple products want desperately to believe that Apple is indeed somehow 'better' than all those others. When they find out it isn't (FOXCONN) they lash out.

        The really funny thing is Apple IS better - Apple is giving money to Foxconn to improve factories, no other company is doing that. They have also given workers bonuses in the past.

        The only people lashing out mindlessly are the green companies that are ignoring the companies that actually do not care and punishing one of the f

      • by AK Marc (707885)

        When they find out it isn't (FOXCONN) they lash out.

        The suicide rate at Foxconn is below average, and the conditions above average. Foxconn isn't a blow against Apple, unless you are an ignorant idiot.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      People don't make a fuss about Google because Google has always been transparent about their dedication to clean energy, and has been recognized many times for it. They're even making giant investments in renewables. http://www.google.com/green/energy/ [google.com]

      Meanwhile, Apple has been as opaque as possible regarding their environmental effects, only opening up about it when they think it'll affect their bottom line.

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        People don't make a fuss about Google because Google has always been transparent about their dedication to clean energy, and has been recognized many times for it. They're even making giant investments in renewables. http://www.google.com/green/energy/ [google.com]

        Meanwhile, Apple has been as opaque as possible regarding their environmental effects, only opening up about it when they think it'll affect their bottom line.

        And that's why the greenpeace thing was BS to begin with - they're not measuring "environmental frien

    • by judgecorp (778838)
      Yep. Apple clearly didn't plan a second giant array in two days. I should have spelt this out, but hoped it was clearly enough implied. Peter
  • This, after the US has slapped a 31 percent import tariff on photovoltaic cells from China, which happened just the other day.

    The protests from the PRC came in yesterday.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303360504577411693605403040.html [wsj.com]

    My take on it is that China has been dumping and this protesting is pro-forma but it sucks if you're an end-user of pv cells.

    --
    BMO

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      Might be a good short term boost for the US economy though - I mean, now Apple needs 40MW of solar panels and the cost of the Chinese ones just got more expensive. Should be a few happy US workers tonight (although ultimately I think punitive import tariffs are something of a double edged sword, there's not much you can do against a determined dumping on the market).

  • If they wanted to save electrical power, they picked a bad location. In North Carolina, their air conditioning costs will be very high. They'd save a lot on power by builing in Colorado, Utah, Nevada or Wyoming where the air is cooler and dryer and for large parts of the year you can just open the windows for cooling.

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      It's not just in NC for the power though - there's land prices, network links to the backbone, various tax breaks from the local city, etc all factored into the location.

      I'm assuming they did their homework on where to build it given how much it cost. ;)

      • by Shavano (2541114)

        It wasn't for energy efficiency reasons is all I'm saying.

        I think it must have been mostly for the tax breaks.

  • leave off the first phrase of the summary and it's accuracy and quality increase dramatically.

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