Apple Confirms It Will Build Data Centre In Oregon

A spokesman for Apple confirmed the company will be building its third data centre in Prineville, in Oregon, just a quarter mile south of the spot where Facebook had opened its first US data centre in 2011.

The Facebook facility in the so-called Beaver State was widely criticized by Greenpeace for its use of dirty coal-sourced electricity from PacificCorp, until two organisations made peace earlier this year.

Project Maverick

In a statement to Oregon’s News Channel 21, Apple confirmed that the mysterious company earlier known only as “Project Maverick” really is the tech giant from Cupertino.

TechWeekEurope has previously reported on the rumours, when some details of the deal were leaked in December.

Apple has 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. This expansion could have been caused by the launch of the company’s cloud platform iCloud in October last year, and the associated pressure on the servers.

The facility will be neighbours with the Facebook server farm that opened in 2011.

Web companies have flocked to Oregon because of the state’s sizable property tax breaks and low power costs. But it is this cheap and dirty power that landed Facebook in trouble with “green” activists.

Cool IT

Two years ago, Greenpeace started a campaign against Facebook’s use of use of coal-fired electricity, as part of its “Cool IT” initiative to get data centre users and providers to reduce their energy usage. The social network was singled out for buying its electricity from PacificCorp, two thirds of which was generated by burning coal. Facebook leadership was bombarded with letters and videos, urging it to “break the addiction to dirty coal-fired electricity”.

Facebook has defended the efficiency of its data centre pointing out that it uses modern “free air” cooling methods and has a world-class efficiency rating.The company said it chose the Oregon site because the “temperate” climate would allow it to operate without mechanical chillers – normally one of the biggest detractors from efficiency in a data centre.

Facebook agreed to share its efficient hardware designs with the world, in the Open Compute project. Early this year, Greenpeace suddenly recognised that the data centre in Prineville was indeed “green”, and the to organisations are promoting more efficient data centres.

Apple is more secretive than Facebook – it is unlikely to open source any hardware tricks – but its latest data centre will be run efficiently on cost grounds. It has also adopted sustainable energy elsewhere.

Apple’s North Carolina data centre will have 2oMW of power from a large solar array owned by Apple, which will displace energy from coal and nuclear generation, that had been criticised by Greenpeace. Considering the experience Facebook had, it would be in Apple’s interests to make the Oregon facility as “green” as possible too.

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Max Smolaks

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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