Apple Builds Solar Farm For Nevada Data Centre

Apple has announced a solar farm to power its data centre in Reno, Nevada. In response, Greenpeace has told Microsoft and Amazon to buck their ideas up and use renewable energy.

An 18 MegaWatt solar array will power the tech giant’s data centre there, pushing forward the company’s promise that Apple’s data centres will use 100 percent renewable power. It will be built by local utility firm NV Energy using investment from Apple and the renewable power will be available to other customers as well.

Apple solar growth

NV Energy announced the Fort Churchill Solar Array in a filing to the local Public Utilities Commission, including an artist’s impression of what the plant will look like (pictured). It should allow Apple and other users to choose green energy – without affecting the price paid by other customers.

The farm will cover 137 acres and generate around 43.5 million kiloWatt hours of energy per year. Apple will pay for the plant and own it initially, with NV taking control over five years through a leasing arrangement.

“We’re excited to be in partnership with Apple on a new solar energy project, the first project under our new Green Energy Program,” said NV Energy CEO Michael Yackira, in a statement. “This programme allows customers such as Apple to choose to have a greater proportion of their energy coming from renewables than the law requires, without having a cost impact on our other customers.”

Apple was also proud of the deal, saying: “This project will not only supply renewable energy for our data centre but also provide clean energy to the local power grid, through a first-of-its-kind partnership with NV Energy.”

Environmental activist Greenpeace welcomed the deal, praising the company along with Facebook and Google, but rebuked other Internet giants such as Microsoft and Amazon for falling behind in use of solar energy.

“With Google, Facebook, and now Apple all announcing major new deals in recent months for new renewable energy to power their data centre operations, the race to build an internet powered by renewable energy is clearly in full swing,” read Greenpeace’s statement. “Tech companies are showing they have the ability to use their influence and buying power with utilities to change their supply of electricity away from coal and toward renewable energy.

“Microsoft and Amazon – both of which still power their Internet using the dirty electricity that causes global warming – ought to take notice. In the race for a clean Internet, Apple is leaving both of those companies in the dust.”

Google has set up a green tariff with its utility company in North Carolina, to support the development of renewable energy there, and has invested $1 billion in wind energy. Facebook’s new Iowa data centre uses some wind energy, and its data centre in Lulea, Sweden uses some local renewable energy.

Not all of Apple’s involvement in Nevada gets universal approval:  it funnels money through its Reno-based subsidiary Braeburn Capital, using Nevada’s zero tax rate to effectively avoid paying any US taxes.

Greenpeace will release an update to its “How Clean Is Your Cloud?” analysis ranking IT companies for their energy choices later this year.

Are you running on green energy? Try our Green IT  quiz!

Peter Judge

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

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