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Apple reveals details on solar-powered data center

Apple reveals details on solar-powered data center

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Apple finally provides some details about its secret solar farm -- and another renewable energy source -- that will help power its $1 billion data center complex in North Carolina.

Apple says it's building the nation's largest end user-owned onsite solar array on the land surrounding its massive $1 billion data center in Maiden, North Carolina, according to an environmental report released today by the company. Hat tip to CNET for first spotting the solar details in Apple's environmental footprint report.

Apple's secret solar farm leaked out back in October when the Charlotte Observer reported Catawba County had approved permits to allow the company to reshape some of the vacant land it owned in preparation for a solar array. Apple never shared details about the solar farm -- that is, until now. Granted, the "details" are vague. Still no information on the type of solar tech the company will use. But, hey it's a start.

The details:

  • 20-megawatt solar installation;
  • Located on 100 acres;
  • Will supply 42 million kilowatt hours of renewable energy each year.

Solar won't be the only renewable energy powering the Maiden data center. According to the report, Apple is building a 5-megawatt fuel cell installation that will be located adjacent to the data center. The fuel cell installation, which is scheduled to come online later this year, will be powered by 100 percent biogas and provide more than 40 million kWh of baseload renewable energy annually, Apple said in the report.

Apple revealed a few other energy-efficient features that will be found in the Maiden data center including:

  • The facility earned the LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Apple says it knows of no other data center of comparable size that has achieved this level of LEED certification.
  • Chilled water storage system designed to improve chiller efficiency by transferring 10,400 kilowatt hours of electricity consumption from peak to off-peak hours every day;
  • Outside air is funneled into the building at night and during cool-weather hours. Use of outside air and the water storage system allows chillers to be turned off more than 75 percent of the time;
  • White cool-roof to reflect sun';
  • High-efficiency LED lighting equipped with motion sensors;
  • Power distributed at higher voltages to increase efficiency by reducing power loss.

Photo: Duke Energy (Blue Wing Solar project)

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Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure