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Apple data centers now powered by 100% renewable energy

Posting in Energy

The cloud -- that magical place that stores ridiculous amounts of data, from your emails to photos to music -- is getting cleaner, at least for Apple.

Apple says in a new environmental report that data centers -- the physical places that store all that data -- at its facilities in Austin, Elk Grove, Cork, and Munich, and Cupertino are now powered with 100 percent renewable energy.

Apple and others have been under pressure from environmental groups to clean up the cloud in recent years. And understandably so. The New York Times reports that data centers are big, wasteful energy consumers -- using a massive 30 billion watts of electric and wasting 90 percent or more of the energy they pull from the grid. That will only get worse as more and more of the world uses cloud computing.

But Apple wants to lead the way in making cloud computing a clean operation. In their data center in Maiden, North Carolina, for example, Apple has built the largest "end user-owned" onsite solar PV array in the United States. The 100 acre array near the data center produces 20 megawatts of energy. Another 20 MW solar array is being built onsite and a 10 MW fuel cell installation is currently run onsite. When the new solar panels are online, the data center will produce enough energy onsite to power the equivalent of 17,600 homes a year.

But is the 100 percent renewable claim accurate? Wired says it's a little more complicated than Apple says. And while Greenpeace commended Apple for its progress, in a statement, it cautions:

"Of course, there’s still plenty of work left for Apple to do. As it keeps growing the cloud, Apple still has major roadblocks to genuinely meeting its 100 % clean energy commitment in North Carolina, where renewable energy policies are under siege and electric utility Duke Energy is intent on blocking wind and solar energy from entering the grid."

Photo: Apple

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— By on March 22, 2013, 3:47 AM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure