Near Maiden, North Carolina Apple is building a huge data center that will, of course, require huge amounts of energy to power the facility. Apple, in its latest environmental report, states that the data center will include the largest “end user-owner, onsite” solar array in the U.S. Or, in less slippery terms, that all the energy will be generated by an array at the facility and consumed there. In addition, a biogas/fuel-cell facility is on the drawing board. Granted, the voluntarily prepared report does not mention any of the environmental impacts of manufacturing all its products or wrapping them in shiny, environmentally unfriendly packaging. It is, however, nice to see them following a trend among big data center users like Google and Amazon to incorporate more renewable energy sources in their server farms.
Though there is currently not date set for completion, the solar array is to be placed next to the data center and will cover 100 acres, producing 20 megawatts or 42 million kWh per year. That will only comprise 20 percent of the 100 megawatts needed to power the facility, so the remainder will likely consist of coal fired generation, the main source of electricity in the state. Still, an investment in green energy is an investment in green energy and should be applauded.
The data center itself will be highly efficient. Here are some of the characteristics Apple is touting:
• 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.
• Construction processes that utilized 14 percent recycled materials, diverted 93 percent
of construction waste from landfills, and sourced 41 percent of purchased materials
within 500 miles of the site.