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Published on February 23rd, 2012 | by Joshua S Hill


Apple to Build Largest Solar Array

February 23rd, 2012 by  

The creators of the iPad, iPhone, and iPod are going to be building America’s largest end-user-owned, onsite solar array at their North Carolina data center.

Apple's Maiden, North Carolina data center

Apple’s Maiden, North Carolina data center is already one of the most energy-efficient of its kind, earning the LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, the highest possible certification from LEED. In typical Apple fashion, they note that they “know of no other data center of comparable size that has achieved this level of LEED certification.”

The energy-efficient design elements of the Maiden facility include:

  • A chilled water storage system to improve chiller efficiency by transferring 10,400 kWh of electricity consumption from peak to off-peak hours each day.
  • Use of “free” outside air cooling through a waterside economizer operation during night and cool-weather hours, which, along with water storage, allows the chillers to be turned off more than 75 percent of the time.
  • Extreme precision in managing cooling distribution for cold-air containment pods, with variable-speed fans controlled to exactly match air flow to server requirements from moment to moment.
  • Power distributed at higher voltages, which increases efficiency by reducing power loss.
  • White cool-roof design to provide maximum solar reflectivity.
  • High-efficiency LED lighting combined with motion sensors.
  • Real-time power monitoring and analytics during operations.
  • Construction processes that utilized 14 percent recycled materials, diverted 93 percent of construction waste from landfills, and sourced 41 percent of purchased materials within 500 miles of the site.

Now, though, Apple will be adding to this impressive list a 100-acre, 20-megawatt solar array that will supply 42 million kilowatt hours of renewable energy every year. Apple will also be installing a 5-megawatt fuel cell installation that will be powered by 100 percent biogas and provide more than 40 million kilowatt hours of 24×7 baseload renewable energy annually.

The news was made as part of the release of Apple’s facilities 2012 report (pdf), which outlines the nature of Apple’s facilities across the planet and their environmental impact therein.

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About the Author

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (.co.uk), and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at about.me for more.

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  • Lou Gage

    Great to see this news. I also wonder about the roof mounted panels. Now with all that money they will be saving maybe they could pay a living wage to Chinese workers.

  • Please can you check this number or let me know how you calculated it? “Apple will be adding … a 20-megawatt solar array that will supply 42 million kilowatt hour of renewable energy every year.”

    • Bob_Wallace

      Sounds like they are expecting a 5.75 hour average solar day.

      42 million kWh / 365 days / 20 thousand MW of panels = 5.75 hours

      That seems a bit high for the area. Perhaps they are going to use trackers to stretch the day.

      • Thanks. Note its 20 MW, not 20,000 MW.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Sorry, I should have written –

          42 million kWh / 365 days / 20 thousand kW of panels = 5.75 hours

          “20 thousand kW” and not “20 thousand MW”. I was attempting to get the units simplified. Edited my first post….

  • lukealization

    Good to see Apple hop on (albeit slowly) the environmentally friendly corporate train!

    One improvement I might suggest however:
    Surely instead of painting the roof white, they could simply install the solar panels on the roof? It’s a win-win-win.

    1) Solar panels absorb the heat and stops sunlight even reaching the roof of the building with a gap in between…

    2) Less land is used…

    3) And Apple doesn’t have to pay as much for that land!

    • tesla222

      “Good to see Apple hop on (albeit slowly) the environmentally friendly corporate train!”

      Source: Apple Facilities Report, 2012
      ‘For more than 10 years, Apple has purchased renewable
      energy for our facilities around the globe. Our facilities located in Cork, Ireland; Munich, Germany; Austin, Texas; and Elk Grove, California are currently using 100 percent
      renewable energy resources.’

      Maybe not as ‘albeit slowly’ as you might think! Where do they stand in comparison with other large companies?

      Re: using the roof – the solar panels will be on 100 acres, how big is the surface area of the roof? Even if it’s 10 acres they wouldn’t save much, especially if the rood wasn’t design to support the extra weight…. Good idea though!

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