Apple Data Centers To Be Green By 2013

Just the other day Microsoft announced it was going carbon neutral. Apple is now goaling for 100% renewable energy for it’s data centers by 2013. This is a very different goal than Microsoft, but still quite interesting.

Apple is a much more focused company than Microsoft. I could be wrong, but I doubt they are dogfooding their future product like Microsoft likely is. My guess is Tim Cook is looking at the financials today, and where Apple wants to be in 2013. He’s a supply chain guy. When it comes to IT operations (the cloud). Electricity is a huge part of that supply chain. Renewable energy has a high upfront cost, but it’s very predictable. The sun doesn’t increase in cost depending on politics or hurricanes, nor does wind. If Apple is going to become the cloud provider for it’s growing tablet and phone market, it’s going to need to scale it’s cloud even further. That means controlling prices from it’s suppliers. Energy included. Apple can afford the high upfront costs of renewable energy. It can benefit from the longer term predictability and eventual drop in costs to scale this.

That is why I think they are doing this.

2 replies on “Apple Data Centers To Be Green By 2013”

“very predictable”? That doesn’t mesh with my understanding. It’s not always windy. Sometimes it’s cloudy. Or, half the day, it’s not sunny at all! Those sorts of issues do drive up the costs. They require development of ancillary technology like energy storage systems, versus simply being able to generate only the power people need at any particular time (by, say, backing off on coal consumption at non-peak times, and increasing at peak times). The cost of the power itself to the power company might be the same all the time, but the costs of everything else needed along with it won’t be, and the customer ends up paying those costs in the end. What’s your source for renewable energy being predictable compared to non-renewable energy?

My understanding is it’s predictable over the lifetime of the setup. Of course you have days or weeks with better/worse weather. You’ll also have times where you go above average. For example the odds of 15% less sun in a 10 year period are pretty low. Any substantial change in wind or sun would have a devastating effect on the ecosystem. These events are rare overall. Global warming is the observation of a “tiny” 0.75°C (IIRC) change in average temp. All the impacts attributed to it are the result of that tiny change.

Don’t forget Apple already has a few data centers, and likely will be expanding overseas next (I’d imagine Europe and Asia). That diversifies things even more.

Even when hooked up to the grid you need redundancy. That’s why most data centers are built in places where they can get redundancy off multiple feeds and still have their own generators + battery setups. I don’t think any of that changes.

Some reports are saying bio-gas will also be used… I suspect that will fill in the gaps when solar/hydro aren’t feasible. That’s technically renewable.

So yes, it is predictable, at the scale Apple operates. Less so for a homeowner who needs to recoup the costs of single installation ASAP. But for a business who needs power across a dozen facilities for the next several years it’s another story.

I’m sure they also selected sites with this in mind and did their homework. Apple’s NC facility was only recently built. Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon etc. have been building facilities with power generation options in mind for years now.

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