Apple Going Solar in a Big Way

At a time when Apple is taking a lot of heat for working conditions used by its manufacturers, the company has issued a report touting its efforts to be more environmentally friendly.

It has announced plans to add a 20-megawatt solar farm to its $1 billion, 500,0000-square-foot data center in Maiden, N.C. The company said it plans to run the facility on a “high percentage renewable energy mix.” The 100-acre parcel is expected to generate 42 million kilowatt-hours of solar power annually.  It also plans a 5-megawatt  fuel cell installation powered by biogas. It’s calling both the largest in the United States operated by a corporate entity.

Meanwhile, the data center earned a Platinum designation under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program run by the U.S. Green Building Council. It has a “white-cool” roof, uses outside air for cooling at night and power monitoring.

Though North Carolina has some of the cheapest power in the country — one of the reasons companies flock there — GigaOm points out that 61 percent of it comes from coal and 31 percent from nuclear sources, making environmentalists shudder.

The report also delves into Apple’s effort to reduce power consumption at its Cupertino, Calif., headquarters, though it estimates that just 2 percent of its carbon emissions come from those facilities. The other 98 percent come from producing, shipping, and recycling Apple products. The company also said it had reduced its iPhone packaging by 42 percent from 2007 to 2011, allowing it to ship 80 percent more boxes in each airline shipping container and cut fuel costs there.

For all its efforts, though, Greenpeace recently left Apple off its Cool IT list of technology leaders in clean energy.

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