Apple planning America's largest solar panel farm

The Mac maker is going green, as it's revealed plans for a 100-acre solar panel farm in North Carolina.

Apple is planning on building America's largest solar panel farm -- taking up a whopping 100 acres. That's it up there, as seen on Google Maps.

The company aims to use the site in North Carolina to power its online operations, including iTunes, the Evening Standard reports. Once built, the 100-acre, 20-megawatt facility will provide 42 million kWh of clean, renewable energy every year. We knew it was big back when we first heard about the facility, but not quite this big.

"Our goal is to run the Maiden facility with high percentage renewable energy mix, and we have major projects under way to achieve this -- including building the nation's largest end user-owned solar array and building the largest nonutility fuel cell installation in the United States," Apple said. Without pausing for breath. It made the announcement in its Facilities Report 2012 Environmental Update.

Other lengths Apple is going to include a solar thermal water heater in the cafeteria in its facility in Cork, Ireland; LED and induction lighting systems in its parking facilities in Elk Grove, California; and LEDs used on signs and light fixtures in Apple stores.

Further from home, however, Apple may not look quite so ethical.

Plants in China, where devices including the iPad and iPhone are made, are under investigation by the Fair Labor Association (FLA) at the invitation of Apple. The plants, run by Foxconn, were initially praised as "first class", but then investigators pulled the mother of all U turns, claiming the factories have "tons of issues".

Foxconn has a chequered history of safety and staff wellbeing, with reports of explosions, poor working conditions, and even employee suicides emerging over the years. The FLA will announce its findings soon.

Do companies like Apple do enough to minimise their environmental impact? And what do you think the results will be of the Foxconn investigation? Let me know in the comments below, or on the Facebook page.

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