"It's as eco-friendly as you can make a datacenter."

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by lvlarkkoenen, Jun 6, 2011.

  1. lvlarkkoenen macrumors regular

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    #1
    Apparently, Steve Jobs claims that that's what the new datacenter for iCloud in North Carolina will be.
    I want proof/details/whatever. For starters, there is little to no sustainable energy in North Carolina, how do they work around that?
     
  2. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

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    #2
    you buy things like "wind credits" but really the power is coming from coal power planets so is a bunch of bogus crap.

    It like buying carbon credits as far as I am concerned.
     
  3. DisMyMac macrumors 65816

    DisMyMac

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    #3
    $1.25 60-watt light bulbs are as eco-friendly as you can make them. However they are soon be outlawed and replaced with very expensive bulbs that produce wavelengths associated with depressed psychological moods.

    Eco-politics don't apply to VIPs, just you and me.
     
  4. lvlarkkoenen thread starter macrumors regular

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    #4
    Wind credits are to me a bit similar to "I'm an *******, but it doesn't matter, because I donate to charity to make up for it."
    "As eco-friendly as it can be" would probably involve solar panels on the roof, investing in a wind/water power plant/etc.
     
  5. 184550 Guest

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    #5
    Might you practice what you preach and give us a source or two?
     
  6. Liquorpuki macrumors 68020

    Liquorpuki

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    #6
    Or maybe it's just materials/location?

    Otherwise the wind stops blowing and nobody in the entire US can access the cloud
     
  7. barkomatic macrumors 68040

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    #7
    That's a myth by the way. The new law will NOT outlaw incandescent bulbs.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/26/garden/fearing-the-phase-out-of-incandescent-bulbs.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=light%20bulb&st=cse
     
  8. SuperJudge, Jun 6, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2011

    SuperJudge macrumors 6502

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    #8
    Well, a large fraction of electricity in my part of NC is provided by Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant and there's also McGuire (which is probably serving Apple's data center), Brunswick, and Catawba (which while in SC serves customers in NC). There are eight hydroelectric dams and solar is gaining ground. To say nothing of clean power tech research that's happening at the major universities in my fair state.

    Maybe you should start by citing your sources first. ;)

    Granted, 55% of NC's energy comes from coal, but to say that's there's little to no sustainable energy in NC is a bit disingenuous.
     
  9. citizenzen Suspended

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    #9
    Steve Jobs made a nice, little claim.

    I'll wait for the details and then judge how well it stands up.

    It may just be an empty boast.

    But I'm willing to give the guy the benefit of the doubt.
     
  10. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

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    #10
    you know thinking about what I do know about NC as I missed it in his first post I know for a fact that there are wind power generation in NC. I do not know where but I do personally know people who work with getting them set up and he was talking about some projects in NC.
     
  11. 184550 Guest

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    #11
    Certainly.

    I live about an hour away from the new facility and am aware of many sustainable and renewable energy projects/ sources in North Carolina.

    While NC certainly isn't first, it certainly isn't last 'with little to no sustainable energy' as the OP seems to believe.

    I'm still curious to hear where the OP got his/ her information from.
     
  12. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

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    #12
    It could just be something like does not know of any.
    I just know they are not some huge projects but knowing some of the hire ups in the industry who do a lot of the work in setting things up and having some access to insider knowledge helps. I know when I first saw NC I know something felt odd about it but then though about it some more and yeah I know there are some with in driving distances of were I was one summer in that state.

    Also you have to remember NC is not exactly very big north to south so power could easily come from a state around it.

    That being said it could easily be Apple doing the bogus thing in my opinion like buying "Wind credits" or carbon Credits.
     
  13. Liquorpuki macrumors 68020

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    #13
    Even if NC was big, it could still get power from hundreds of miles away.

    Here in LA, we get a big chunk of power from Utah, another big chunk from New Mexico, another big chunk from Oregon.

    Apple's datacenter is in Maiden, NC and is fed by Duke Energy which generates more off nuclear than coal and has generation assets in other states. I'm guessing if Apple says its as eco-friendly as it can get, they're buying 100% nuclear from Duke Energy.

    So don't listen to Greenpeace. They're throwing out numbers and trying to make noise when they have no clue what those numbers mean. They're treating North Carolina like it's a bubble and assuming that electricity that is generated in NC ONLY is what the datacenter will get. Which is not how electricity is transmitted at all.

    On top of that, you wouldn't want a data center to be powered directly off anything that's intermittent (IE solar, wind) anyway. Unless you want to lose all your data or your ability to sync to the cloud when nature goes to sleep.
     
  14. lvlarkkoenen thread starter macrumors regular

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    #14
    Right. I thought this over and was afraid you would mock Greenpeace, which is my source, as, indeed, I should have pointed out from the beginning. Also, my ex was studying Energy Science and the NC server farms were a notorious example (although things may well be better by now)

    Taking this link as provided by Liquorpuki, still makes its energy far from "as eco-friendly as it can be". For starters:
    Natural gas isn't clean, it's just not as bad as coal. It's still a fossil fuel. Nuclear is a completely different story, which I will go into in a second. Some "renewables" (biomass) have their problems, albeit mostly social instead of environmental. "Unspecified" is very shady. Counting all the "renewables", hydroelectric (which is awesome if you ask me), and "unspecified", we arrive at 42,4% clean energy.
    Now, Duke Energy, which will be Apples supplier according to this article (which in turn, bases much of its info on Greenpeace), uses indeed alot of nuclear energy. In the Guardian article it says 62% nuclear, 32% coal (which leaves 6% for other). We can assume that the datacenter will use nuclear then. Nuclear, as most of you know, has its own problems.
    1. It produces toxic waste. Even high efficiency, modern nuclear power plants do. This time around, I'll not use Greenpeace as a source, but Wikipedia.
    2. Even the most modern reactors aren't 100% safe. Claims of 'inherently safe' reactors are void if you ask me. Safety can only be 'inherent' if there are no dangerous substances in the reactor at any time. (there are more factors ofcourse) Since the fuel, and the reaction products, are radioactive, there is no such thing as inherent safety for fission reactors.
    3. Fission fuel is limited. However, with breeding technology becoming more feasible, this may not be a problem for at least a century. Probably a few. I'm assuming for now that that's plenty of time to come up with alternatives.

    So due to its radioactive nature, nuclear power is not "as eco-friendly as it can be".

    After this lengthy piece of mine, an apology is in place. I didn't mean to flame Apple for 'blatant lies', because I have good hopes that Apple does indeed strive to use sustainable energy for it. I meant to indicate my curiosity as to how they try to live up to the claim. 100% isn't even needed to get my approval (not that they should care about that, but still), but nuclear power isn't enough either. If Apple manages to pull this off, as, again, I do trust they will, then all the more power to them :). I still want to know how though. I like Apple, and if people come up to me with claims of Apple's dirty data-center, I wanna know the truth, and hope to be able to prove them wrong.

    (two sidenotes: 1. Responding to my asking for sources by asking for sources isn't necessarily a strong point. A big company should be able to underpin its claims regardless. 2. I personally find the place a company gets its energy a matter of industry/business more than politics/religion/social issues. If I could have known, by reading guidelines or something, that this part of the forum is where it goes, my apologies.)
     
  15. citizenzen Suspended

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    #15
    I'm curious how they support that claim as well.

    However, the amount of energy used to power a building is only one aspect of eco-friendliness.

    There are many other ways to enhance eco-friendliness that go beyond the consumption of electricity and natural gas.
     
  16. lvlarkkoenen thread starter macrumors regular

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    #16
    Naturally, and I'm curious to those as well. In my initial post energy was only meant to be an example. Architecture (does it allow for efficient cooling), materials used, etc. I'm not sure if satisfactory answers will be available to those though.
     
  17. Liquorpuki macrumors 68020

    Liquorpuki

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    #17
    What would be considered clean enough then? IE You can't run a server farm off wind and solar.

    All you'd need to do is look at the contract between Apple and Duke Energy, which is what Greenpeace was asking for. But judging from Greenpeace's willingness to throw out numbers without first understanding what they mean, if I was Apple I wouldn't give it to them either. Plus I have a feeling the contract is proprietary anyway.
     
  18. lvlarkkoenen thread starter macrumors regular

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    #18
    Well there are ways to improve the reliability. You could store excess energy in hydrogen fuel cells. Or in hydroelectrical plants. Clever entrepreneurs in Switzerland do so already, and there's 2 big cables going from NL to Norway to use excess Dutch wind energy to pump up Norwegian water into their mountains, which can later be used to produce electricity on days with little wind. Main problem is that NL doesn't have enough wind energy parks yet IMO. I agree that in the end you really want a reliable backup system, and for the time being nuclear/coal/gas are the most obvious options. But I also believe that with proper investment, within a decade or perhaps two, different options can be available. For example, there's a firm in Cambridge, Mass (source), that claims to have highly efficient gen-tech microbes that produce bio-ethanol out of sunlight, carbon-dioxide and water. Nuclear fusion might be a decent solution as well, although it requires alot of research yet.
     
  19. Liquorpuki macrumors 68020

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    #19
    Unless it wants to enter the electricity business, it's not economical for Apple to start building its own power plants. Your Switzerland example is called pumped hydro storage. It would require Apple to spend a ton of $$$ to build two entire lakes at different elevations and a slope the size of a mountain in addition to the wind farm whose energy it's supposed to store. All that just to run a data center.

    Which is pointless because if the wind stops blowing, energy runs out anyway so it doesn't matter what Apple owns downstream of their wind farm.

    I'd encourage anyone who wants to understand what's viable with renewables to at least learn what baseload generation is. Coal and nuclear aren't your backup. They're your primary and you have no other choice because you can't swap them with renewables at the same degree of penetration.
     
  20. SuperJudge macrumors 6502

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    #20
    Bingo. Solar and Wind are really only good for peaktime generation with current technologies. Solar might get there some day, but it's a ways off. If you want to go clean (as in no emissions) as soon as possible nuclear fission will have to be a part of the equation for the transition period, however long that is.

    Yes, there are problems with nuclear, but there are really far fewer problems with nuclear than there are with coal. Coal will, without a doubt, cause serious pollution. Nuclear may or may not cause serious pollution. You have to take a long term view. Fukushima Daiichi is not the normal course of events with nuclear. Things like mercury emissions and acid rain are the natural course of events with coal almost no matter what you do and carbon emissions are completely unavoidable with coal. Full stop.

    You can't have your cake and eat it, too.
     
  21. 184550 Guest

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    #21
    But it is a necessary point if you wish to participate in PRSI discussions.

    Per the 'Rules for Appropriate Debate'

    Taken from the 'Debate' subsection:

    More information is available from this sticky, which is located at the top of the PRSI forum.
     
  22. lvlarkkoenen thread starter macrumors regular

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    #22
    Agreed, NathanMuir, I should have.

    Just to run a data center? I believe this data center is a pretty big deal for Apple. Anyway, I'm not saying Apple should build a mountain, I'm saying that if it's feasible to do such a thing with Dutch energy in Norwegian mountains (you know, with about 300 miles of sea in between) it's probably feasible to do so in the Appalachians. And if it isn't, perhaps there are different locations in the US where they could have built a data center. Or there are different ways to store energy.
    It's not that silly to choose a location for a facility based on energy availability. I'm aware that costs are an important factor, but Apple didn't weigh that all too much with their upcoming new headquarters, which is, according to Jobs, "not the cheapest way to build something."

    Also:
    So apparently getting into its own energy generation isn't that big a problem. Natural gas, as I've said before, isn't the holy grail, but it isn't as bad as coal either.
     
  23. Liquorpuki, Jun 8, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2011

    Liquorpuki macrumors 68020

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    #23
    I looked up your NorNed example. That pumped hydro storage is feasible because it's used to meet demand for two different countries which require different amounts of electricity at different times of the day. It's also owned by those in the electricty business who can expect a return when it's used. You can't apply this model to Apple's datacenter at all.

    He was talking about the curved glass of the building.

    But let's do the math. It's a 100 MW datacenter. If Apple wanted to build a wind farm to feed it, given a 20% capacity factor, they'd have to build a 500 MW wind farm (AKA they'd be building the 7th largest windfarm in the world). Since the wind blows more at night, they'd also have to build the pumped hydro station to load balance.

    But if the wind stops blowing for X amount of time, the datacenter loses power anyway, so there's really no point.

    He's talking about supplying electricity for a corporate building, not an industrial one. And once he realizes how expensive natural gas is to burn 24/7 (which is why most utilities only burn it during peak hours), he'll probably reconsider.

    Greenpeace, no matter how good their intentions didn't do their due diligence and are spreading misinformation. Instead of taking their numbers and trying to run with them, it might be better to learn what's viable.
     
  24. localoid macrumors 68020

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    #24
    I can think of at least one dam in Appalachia that could be retro fitted with hydro-generators to produce about 25 megawatts of power at a cost of around $80-million. But would that be enough for a datacenter the size of Apple's NC facility? (I assume it wouldn't.)

    A company willing to invest billions/trillions might someday be able to tap a potential source of >18 gigawatts from the geothermal hotspot in West Virginia.
     
  25. lvlarkkoenen, Jun 9, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2011

    lvlarkkoenen thread starter macrumors regular

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    #25
    $80m for 25 MW? Per a very sloppy calculation, using the price I pay for electricity and a 1:1 € to $ conversion rate, that should be paid back in about 2 years. In reality, it probably comes out at about 5 years, and that's still not counting maintenance/labour costs/etc, but it does make me think it's not all too bad an investment. It's about a quarter of the electricity required for the datacenter, which I think is a big start.

    I was talking about "it's all a matter of choice". A choice that Steve Jobs implies to have made when he says "as eco-friendly as possible".

    But let's not loose ourselves in debate about how well Apple could find sustainable energy sources. I'll agree that wanting my cake and eating it today is too much to ask. Perhaps Apple has done as well as is viable, perhaps (I hope, as you'll expect) they'll increase on it. But as mentioned before, that isn't the only issue, so I'm curious if anyone has more information on other aspects?
    For example, it appears Apple uses these, which
    Pretty vague, still, per the "alternative approaches".

    Added:
    I also found this link, where it says:
    Don't know how they found that out though.
     

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