Apple builds the first of two 20MW solar farms

As a company Apple have always been known for thinking outside the box, changing our perceptions of what to expect from our technology and revolutionising the market in their wake. Following in this tradition, Apple has recently built a 20 megawatt (MW) solar farm to power its data centre near the city of Maiden, North Carolina.

The solar farm is part of a larger environmental policy which Apple hopes will demonstrate their commitment to reducing their environmental impact through energy efficient, green building design. The solar farm was built to supply energy to the company’s new data centre, which itself has earned the coveted LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

The energy-efficient design elements of the Maiden facility have used a good dose of commonsense as well as the advanced technology we have come to expect from a world leading IT company. Why spend millions on energy bills to power your air conditioning when you can develop a system that uses “free” outside air to cool your servers?

The system operates at night and during cool-weather hours bringing the air through a waterside economizer. The water is then used to maintain the optimum temperature for the servers and allows chillers to be turned off more than 75 percent of the time. This isn’t just about the environment, the potential cost savings for Apple are significant.

To complement the energy efficient design in place at the new data centre Apple has also invested heavily in renewable energy, including solar PV. Their Environmental Update states:

“Apple is building the nation’s largest end user–owned, onsite solar array on the land surrounding the data center. When completed, this 100-acre, 20-megawatt facility will supply 42 million kWh of clean, renewable energy annually.

Apple is committed to pursuing energy-efficient growth by increasing our renewable energy participation to match the growing needs of our data center—through our own projects as well as partnerships with utilities and renewable energy providers.”

Apple’s investment is a sound business decision on many levels, the cost of the investment will pay for itself as fuel costs continue to rise, and a pro-sustainability model can only improve the company’s standing in the eyes of its already loyal fans. Apple certainly isn’t the only company investing in green technology, but as the one the world looks to for innovation this is hopefully the start of some big companies reassessing their feelings for renewable energy.

© 2012 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Rebecca Boyle