Apple's Data Center

Apple's 2012 Facilities Report provided detail on on the sustainability features, ranging from 'free air' cooling to real-time power monitoring, in Apple's Maiden (NC-USA) data center. A more recent report commits to 100% renewable energy.

Apple boasts, "The facility is exceptionally energy efficient and has earned the coveted LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. We know of no other data center of comparable size that has achieved this level of LEED certification." LEED-NC (LEED for New Construction) certification is a good start, but LEED features have not always translated into sustainable operation, particularly for buildings like data centers. Will Apple follow up with LEED-EBOM (LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance) to certify sustainable operation? Many operators of LEED buildings don't for fear of undermining the green virtue accrued from the original LEED build.

Beyond LEED, Apple's data center features advanced technologies for more energy-efficient operation of ICT facilities.

• 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.

I look forward to Apple publishing its PUE targets and results as have its competitors.

Apple is also working to reduce the facility's GHG emissions.

• Apple is building the nation’s largest end user–owned, onsite solar array on the land surrounding the data center. When completed, this 100-acre, 20-megawatt facility will supply 42 million kWh of clean, renewable energy annually.
• Apple is building a fuel cell installation that, when online later in 2012, will be the largest non-utility fuel cell installation operating anywhere in the country. This 5-megawatt facility, located directly adjacent to the data center, will be powered by 100 percent biogas, and provide more than 40 million kWh of 24x7 baseload renewable energy annually.

Since this announcement, Apple has been under pressure from Greenpeace to up its commitment. Apple now says, "By the end of 2012, we’ll meet the energy needs of our Maiden, North Carolina, data center using entirely renewable sources." Details from Apple.

If Apple succeeds in powering its new datacenter entirely with renewables, it will make a major contribution to turning ICT's brown cloud green.

Not ignoring ICT's prodigious water consumption, the facility "employs an innovative cooling system that reuses the same water 35 times, resulting in a 20 percent reduction in overall water consumption. The data center also uses a rainwater-supplied system for onsite landscape irrigation, further reducing overall water consumption."

More on Apple's Maiden data center
Apple and Green ICT