Apple begins Construction Of ‘Green’ Oregon Data Centre

Max ‘Beast from the East’ Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope.

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Yet another server farm located in the Oregon High Desert

Last week, Apple started construction of its latest data centre in Prineville, Oregon – a centre which apple promises will be carbon neutral.

This is the first phase of the project that will eventually see two 338,000 square-foot buildings erected in the Oregon High Desert, to host Apple’s iCloud services.

In April, following vocal criticism by Greenpeace, Apple announced that its new facilities will run on “100 percent renewable energy” – wind, hydro, and geothermal power from local sources.

Good neighbourhood

In February, it emerged that Apple had bought a 160-acre plot of land in total secrecy, paying a reported $5.6 million (£3.57 million) for the opportunity to house its servers in the midst of the Oregon High Desert, next to Prineville – a town of 9,000 inhabitants.

Data centre, servers © Sashkin Shutterstock 2012As part of the deal, Apple was promised a 15-year property tax break in exchange for investing at least a quarter of a billion dollars in the facility, and employing a minimum of 35 people.

The new data centre will be located literally across the road from Facebook’s server farm, previously singled out by ‘green’ activists for buying its electricity from PacificCorp, two thirds of which is generated by burning coal.

After a trashing by Greenpeace in “How Clean Is Your Cloud?” report, Apple quickly announced that its upcoming data centre would rely on energy from 100 percent renewable sources, and not coal.

The company has made use of the property already, by putting up a 10,000-square foot modular data centre in the spring. Now, according to local newspaper The Oregonian, Apple has paid $68 million to begin construction of the first building, which will house two ‘data halls’. Eventually, the iPhone manufacturer hopes to bring the number of data halls to 16, with plenty of space left for future expansion.

Even though development is not a secret any more and guards wear jackets with an Apple logo, The Oregonian writes that staff on the grounds are still reluctant to confirm their employer.

Oregon has become a popular destination for Silicon Valley companies which want to take advantage of its dry climate, low taxes and cheap power. Out in Morrow County, where Amazon has two of its server farms and data hosting specialist Rackspace plans to build its facilities, industrial power costs roughly a quarter of what a data centre might pay in California. Google and Adobe are also hosting their services in Oregon.

The popularity of the ‘Beaver State’ as the place to build data centres has its drawbacks. Some analysts have suggested that if the facilities don’t become more efficient, they could consume almost ten percent of all energy in the north-western region of US by 2030.

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