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Greenpeace raps Apple for lowballing data center energy

The environmental watchdog says documents for diesel generator permits show Apple plans to expand its energy footprint at its North Carolina data center, but the years-old documents don't offer any definitive proof.

Apple's Maiden, North Carolina data center is expected to be one of the least polluting data centers operating when it's completed.
Apple's Maiden, North Carolina data center is expected to be one of the least polluting data centers operating when it's completed. Apple

Greenpeace has uncovered documents that the group claims indicate Apple has plans to draw more power at its North Carolina data center than it has stated.

The environmental watchdog group yesterday published a permit application and permit for back up diesel-powered generators at Apple's Maiden, N.C., data center that's now under construction.

The documents indicate that Apple requested and was approved to use significantly more than the 20 megawatts of power Apple projects its data center to use at full capacity. The company received environmental permits to install 54 megawatts of diesel back up power, but because redundancy is built in to the system, only 40.8 megawatts would be used at any time.

While Greenpeace says the discrepancy points to Apple's plans to consume more power in the future, the permits on their own don't offer definitive proof of that. The documents date from 2009 and 2010 and the company may have ultimately chosen to install a smaller system.

An Apple representative reiterated a previous statement about its North Carolina data center, which has become one focus of Greenpeace's Clean our Cloud campaign to pressure cloud providers to use more clean energy sources.

Our data center in North Carolina will draw about 20 megawatts at full capacity, and we are on track to supply more than 60 percent of that power on-site from renewable sources including a solar farm and fuel cell installation which will each be the largest of their kind in the country. We believe this industry-leading project will make Maiden the greenest data center ever built, and it will be joined next year by our new facility in Oregon running on 100 percent renewable energy.

Apple's data center will have a giant 20-megawatt solar array and be powered partly by fuel cells from Bloom Energy, which run on biogas captured from landfills.

Also today, four activists from Greenpeace and local groups locked themselves to rail tracks in North Carolina to block the delivery of coal to protest the practice of mountain removal mining. Activists also placed an Apple logo on rail cars carrying coal to its electricity supplier Duke Energy.