A Closer Look at Apple's North Carolina Renewable Energy Power Plant

Discussion in 'MacRumors.com News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Nov 18, 2013.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    After building large solar power and biogas fuel cell generating facilities at its Maiden, North Carolina data center, Apple is one of the of the largest non-utility clean energy generation companies in the country. As of a report earlier this year, Apple uses 100% renewable energy across all its data centers, plus 75% at its corporate facilities.

    Gigaom's Katie Fehrenbacher went to the facility and has written an extensive article with a number of images of both Apple's two gigantic solar farms, as well as its Bloom Energy biogas fuel cell farm. In total, Apple generates roughly 50 megawatts at peak efficiency -- 40MW across two solar farms, plus another 10MW in fuel cells.

    With Apple's data center consuming roughly 40 MW of electricity, at times of peak power production the company becomes a net power producer for local utility Duke Energy. Apple appears to be the only major Internet company with its own power generating facilities like these.

    Apple works with a company that provides sheep to eat the grass underneath the solar panels, an environmentally friendly alternative to mowing.

    For its fuel cell facility, Apple uses biogas fuel cells made by Bloom Energy. Biogas is an alternative to natural gas that can be captured from decomposing organic matter like landfills, water treatment facilities and farms. Natural gas is significantly cheaper, but is a nonrenewable fossil fuel.

    Gigaom has much more about the facility in its article, and examines what a number of other tech companies are doing with regards to clean energy as well.

    Renewable energy is a hot-button issue at the moment with some outside observers like Greenpeace pushing large Internet companies to adopt clean power for their data centers, which consume some 2 percent of the total electricity produced in the United States each year. Apple has worked hard in recent years to improve its public image with regards to the environment, and recently hired former EPA chief Lisa Jackson to head the company's environmental and sustainability efforts.

    Article Link: A Closer Look at Apple's North Carolina Renewable Energy Power Plant
  2. Reason077 macrumors 68020


    Aug 14, 2007
    Really? I thought Google were really in to this sort of thing.
  3. Konrad9 macrumors 6502a

    Feb 23, 2012
    I don't care if it's a tax stunt, publicity stunt, or just for the bottom line, getting renewable energy more popular is a good thing for all of us, and I applaud Apple for doing this.
  4. FrizzleFryBen macrumors 6502

    Dec 14, 2009
    Charlotte, NC
    I drive by this a few times a week and at least once a month I stop by and simply bask in it's massiveness for a few minutes. It's truly awesome!
  5. Squilly macrumors 68020


    Nov 17, 2012
    A little off topic but two things baffle me:
    Apple is winning either way. When the US gets more populated and people move into these areas, it doesn't leave them with much. Land is cheap but it'll be full of these solar panels instead of housing. Same with KY, full of warehouses.
    The other: we harvest energy from the sun. Think about that for a second. Hundreds of thousands of miles away and using under 1% of its energy, yet still powering so much is baffling (in a good way). Off topic rant over.
    On topic: kudos to you Apple.
  6. goobot macrumors 603


    Jun 26, 2009
    long island NY
    I respect apple for this. Why the world is so anti-clean enegy is beyond me. It's not even like we resently knew things like oil were not only finte but bad for our planet, we have known for decades and decades.
  7. SirHaakon macrumors 6502a

    Jun 14, 2007
    This is amazing. :D
  8. Squilly macrumors 68020


    Nov 17, 2012
    And they call them... iSheep.

    Sorry, couldn't help myself. ;)
  9. sulpfiction macrumors 68040


    Aug 16, 2011
    Philadelphia Area
    So when we're not camping out for the next iOS device, us "sheep" get to mow the lawn at the solar farm. Awesome!
  10. FrizzleFryBen macrumors 6502

    Dec 14, 2009
    Charlotte, NC
    Trust me, Maiden is not a hot spot. A few hundred acres makes no difference...nor will it ever
  11. Glideslope macrumors 603


    Dec 7, 2007
    A quiet place in NY.

    I'm curious how often "the stack" needs replacing? :apple:
  12. nagromme macrumors G5


    May 2, 2002
    A rising tide lifts all boats: even sheep rental firms!

    (And, seriously, this story is several minutes old and still nobody has Photoshopped a picture of Apple users crouched under solar panels, munching grass? After all, we're sheep who only like Apple products because Apple has commanded us to like them...)
  13. ctdonath macrumors 65816


    Mar 11, 2009
    Price & reliability. Period.
    I can either pay something like $100/month now and for the next 40 years while I earn it for cheap non-renewable (but abundant) electricity, or come up with $50,000 now for a "clean" system which I'll have to maintain and replace anyway in a couple decades.

    Nobody objects to "clean energy" per se. It's the up-front costs, higher overall costs, personal maintenance, and unreliable availability. Electric cars are great, until you have to buy a new battery for $40,000. Solar power is great, until it's too cloudy too long and the buffer gives way and the "non-renewable" grid can't handle the prolonged backup load. Wind is great, until you see a turbine fail and discover nobody wants to fix it. Thorium is fantastically "clean", but nobody wants to even look in the direction of anything construed as "nuclear power".

    Apple can pull it off because they've got truckloads of cash to pay for these systems up-front (and invest for indefinite self-supplied maintenance costs), large enough centers to make economy of scale work (tens of megawatts), stability & predictability (data centers), location flexibility (build it darn near _anywhere_), and isolation (just need a few people to run the place and a single massive data pipe in/out). When your standard deviations of usage clash with the standard deviations of flexibility, "clean" just doesn't work out yet.
  14. MacSince1990 macrumors 65816


    Oct 6, 2009
    Anyone else feel like if all they'd done was raised the solar panels by about 20 feet they could have used the rest of the 100 acres for something else? Kind of seems like a waste. Not to mention not a great use of square footage/solar panel..
  15. pukifloyd macrumors 6502a


    Jun 25, 2008
    Great article! Respect to Apple for doing this! I only wish they make renewable energy cheaper for consumers..
  16. solarkismet macrumors newbie

    Aug 15, 2008
    In 10-15 states you can lease a solar system for no money down and save money on day 1...the innovation isn't technology it's financing.

    I don't live in one of those states but for $4,000 I cover 75% of my electricity for the next 20 years...it's not $50,000.
  17. iPusch macrumors 6502


    May 30, 2012
    Manhattan, New York
  18. Kan-O-Z macrumors 6502

    Aug 3, 2007
    It's simple and disturbing at the same time. Big business will do anything to keep their business running strong, including destroying the earth and our health so they can continue to make profits. They will spend $$$ on lobbyists and buying up politicians to ensure that the laws promote their business and hinder any sort of alternative. Finally they will spend $$$ on brain washing people to support de-regulation of our government (telling people that the government takes away our freedom) to get people to vote for politicians that support de-regulation. De-regulation is great for them as it allows them to continue with their unethical practices to make even more money.

    I ask one question: What are you going to do with all that money when we have no climate, food, water, or earth to live with?

    To those that are big business supporters and anti government....just know that big business is even worse than big government. They leave you with little to no choice in what you eat, drink, buy and breathe. Unlike big government, they actually have an agenda...to make money at any cost.

    I applaud Apple for doing this. I applaud companies like Tesla to create our modern electric car. Times will change soon.

  19. RichardC300 macrumors 65816


    Sep 27, 2012
    Chapel Hill, NC
  20. Exponent macrumors regular

    Jul 17, 2002
    Silicon Valley
    Or…. It could be the fact that when analyzed over the entire life of the system - including the cost and environmental impact to create the "green tech", and then at end of lifetime to properly dispose the "green tech", usually the "tech" isn't very "green" at all.

    It frustrates me no end how so many now think that things just grow on trees, that they don't require painful gathering from natural resources and extensive, complicated, and often dirty acts of creation. Or that they naturally compost into the ground after it has run its course, and a butterfly sanctuary will magically pop up in its place.

    One of the beautiful things about fossil fuels is that they are an energy source as well as an energy storage system. Say what you will about the businesses involved, but that's a really solid "green" built-in advantage for those forms of energy.
  21. carlgo macrumors 68000

    Dec 29, 2006
    Monterey CA
    The current cost per month should not be the only measurement. There are "costs" about doing nothing as well and they will be vastly more expensive than the rather modest subsidies employed now.

    Oil itself will become much more valuable for uses other than simply burning it away. It needs to be made into materials that themselves are recyclable.

    What is really needed is a huge effort to store solar and wind power and get away from artificial purchasing agreements with utilities. This will make it vastly more beneficial.

    I say this despite me not really liking acres of solar panel and windmills and prefer geothermal and perhaps the thorium reactors.
  22. johnmcboston macrumors 6502


    Sep 16, 2005
    I was more wondering about the impact of the loss of 100 acres of trees - but similar thoughts. (didn't see many solar cells on the building roof or over the parking lot either...)
  23. mysticbluebmw macrumors regular

    Jun 11, 2009
    I thought that was us. :cool:
  24. satcomer macrumors 603


    Feb 19, 2008
    The Finger Lakes Region
    I have noticed no news from GreenPeace on this Solar Farm at Apple's NC site. GreenPeace is not what it used to be and now is filled with radical people.
  25. Kan-O-Z macrumors 6502

    Aug 3, 2007
    Like all new technologies (including oil going back a 100 years ago), it takes significant investment and infrastructure to start it. After technologies mature, the cost naturally comes down. How much resources does it take to build giant rigs to drill for oil, drill for oil, process the oil, build huge oil tankers to transport, build huge pipelines all over the country to distribute it, etc. Now that that whole system in place, it's hardly fair to compare it to a new alternative system that is just starting out.

    You can bet that big business will not create an alternative unless there is a government pushing them to do so. There are a few exceptions like Apple and Tesla but for the most part, they don't.

    For examples, look at our Food industries and Oil industries. What they are doing is horrible, yet they have bought out our government and use our taxes to give them benefits? Explain that one to me?

    Why not give take away their subsidies and give it to alternative renewable power? This will increase the cost of oil, reduce the cost of alternatives. Why not take away subsidies from Monsanto and give it to local food producers. Those people that think organic is too expensive won't think so after fast food goes up in price and healthy organic places come down in price.

    Oh and as a side benefit, America may just become a little heathier and some of our health care debates may just go away... After all the real problem with our healthcare is that we are sicker than ever....that is why the costs are high. No one wants to fix that, we just keep arguing about the symptom of the problem, not the problem itself.

    Anyways, I've gone too far off topic.

    I agree with you that it's not free. But please don't make the argument that a hybrid or electric car is just as dirty as a regular car. Remember that what you see with the alternatives in their starting stages is worst case scenario. As they mature, they get even cleaner and cheaper. Oil on the other hand has little to no room for improvement.


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