Apple unveils 18-megawatt solar farm to power cloud data centre

Lucas Mearian Computerworld
4 July, 2013
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Apple plans to build an 18-megawatt solar power plant to power a new data centre in Reno.

Apple announced the Nevada solar power facility in its 2012 Environmental Footprint Report.

“We will be making use of the excellent natural solar radiation and geothermal resources in Nevada to completely meet the energy needs of our data centre,” Apple wrote in its report.

Apple will construct the 18-megawatt photovoltaic solar plant just east of Reno, in Yerington, Nevada. Known as the Fort Churchill Solar Array, the facility is part of Apple’s plan to power its data centre with 100 percent renewable energy. The plans for the facility were included this week in a filing by NV Energy Inc to the Nevada Public Utilities Commission.

In a statement, Apple said all of its data centres use 100 percent renewable energy, “and we are on track to meet that goal in our new Reno data centre using the latest in high-efficiency concentrating solar panels”.

“The project will not only supply renewable energy for our data centre, but also provide clean energy to the local power grid, through a first-of-its-kind partnership with NV Energy. When completed, the 137-acre solar array will generate approximately 43.5 million kilowatt hours of clean energy, equivalent to taking 6400 passenger vehicles off the road per year,” the statement said.

Apple said its new data centre will be located in Reno, and it said it will be “every bit” as environmentally responsible as its Maiden, North Carolina data centre. Apple uses a 100-acre solar energy farm to power the Maiden data centre. That energy farm can produce about 20 million kilowatt hours.

Apple is building a second site at Maiden that will do another 20 million kilowatt hours, according to Apple spokesman Nick Leahy.

At full capacity, Apple’s Maiden data centre draws about 20 megawatts of power. The solar array provides up to 60 percent of the power used in its data centre, according to Leahy.

“We’ll meet the remaining 40 percent of our energy needs by directly purchasing clean, renewable energy generated by local and regional sources,” Leahy said during an interview earlier this year with Computerworld.

Based on an economic impact analysis prepared for the State of Nevada, the Fort Churchill Solar Array will take eight months to build, according to a public filing by Apple.

According to the filing, the Fort Churchill Solar Array is expected to generate over a trillion kilowatt hours of clean energy over 25 years.

According to PV Magazine, Apple is working with general contractor SunPower to develop the Nevada solar array.


By Lucas Mearian, Computerworld

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