Baseload, Bioenergy, Monitoring, Solar

Apple Tips Plans For Solar, Biogas Systems at NC Data Farm

Last year Apple commissioned its new 500,000-square-foot [not acre!] data center in Maiden, North Carolina. The facility, costing an estimated $1 billion facility to build, is the company’s biggest data center several times over, aimed to support everything from iTunes to its iCloud services to the Siri voice functionality in the iPhone 4S.

Among its other credentials: LEED Platinum status (possibly a first for any data center anywhere) and various energy-efficient design elements, from chilled water storage white cool-roofs to LED lighting to real-time power monitoring to its use of recycled and locally-sourced materials.

Reports surfaced last fall that Apple was planning some kind of solar system at the Maiden site. And today a number of outlets have keenly picked up on an updated Apple environmental report, in which the company expands on its renewable energy plans for the facility:

  • A 100-acre, 20-megawatt (MW) solar array, supplying 42 million kWh of energy each year. This is an impressive size; SEPA figures indicate only a dozen solar PV (and 10 CSP) projects of 20MW or larger are now operating in the US. (More than three dozen 20MW+ solar PV projects are planned to come online in 2012, followed by a bunch more, including some multi-hundred-MW behemoths, anticipated in 2013.)
  • A 5MW biogas system to come online later this year, providing another 40 million kWh of 24×7 baseload renewable energy annually. Apple claims this will be the largest non-utility-owned fuel cell installation in the US.
  • Added together, that’s 82 million kWh/year of onsite renewable energy generation at the Maiden facility. That alone would have met roughly 17 percent of Apple’s entire energy consumption in 2011.

We’re awaiting feedback from the company (if they’ll provide it) for more details about the specific technologies and suppliers involved, timelines, etc., and will update with anything we get.