Meg Cichon, Associate Editor, RenewableEnergyWorld.com
January 11, 2013 | 155 Comments
Nashua, NH -- Technology continues to change and expand faster than most consumers can keep up with – but many try their best. And the company that is arguably the most popular and innovative – the one that techies follow like groupies to a rock star – is Apple. But with each new feature, iTunes, iCloud, Apps, and more, comes a greater need for power, which is why Apple is hard at work to find renewable solutions for its ever-growing energy needs.
In order to power many of the features it provides, Apple builds energy-sucking data centers. It has established a clean energy initiative, with plans to power several of its data centers with 100% renewable energy created by the company and locally procured. This past spring, Apple announced that it was building a 20-MW solar farm to help power its data center in Maiden, North Carolina. After construction was completed, it bought another 200 acres of nearby land to build an additional 20-MW solar farm, according to reports. The facility also contains a 5-MW biogas-powered fuel cell installation. Apple claims that it intends to power two additional data centers with renewable energy by early 2013.
Apparently Apple is not settling with its current renewable procurement methods. This week, Apple Insider reported a wind energy storage patent that the company hopes will help mitigate renewable energy intermittency issues. The patent describes the technology as converting the friction from rotating turbine blades into heat. This heat is then stored in a “low-heat-capacity” fluid, such as mercury or ethanol. When wind is at a lull and more energy is necessary, the stored heat can then be transferred to a “working fluid” that is brought to a boil to create steam. The steam is then directed to a turbine that is connected to a generator.
The patent claims that the storage method can reduce costs caused by intermittency and reduce dependence on fossil fuel backup energy. Whether Apple will move forward with the patent isn’t clear, but it is apparent that the company is getting serious about renewable energy solutions.
An additional patent unveiled this week is more on the gadget side. Apple is busy inventing methods to integrate solar power into devices. The patent outlines the technology as either an accessory that can be attached or manufactured into the back of a laptop. It is engineered to harness the sun to power backlight displays, which can enhance battery life and reduce energy usage. According to reports, Apple is considering the use of solar cells for this technology.
Lead image: Andrey Bayda via Shutterstock