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Robert McMillan's Posts

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After Greenpeace protests, Apple promises to dump coal power

Image by Earl Wilkerson.

Apple is cleaning up its energy act.

The computer company says that by early next year, the energy used to power its worldwide data centers will all come from renewable sources, such as solar, wind power, or hydroelectric dams. It announced the news Thursday in a post on its website.

That’s a victory for the environmental activists at Greenpeace, who have been pressuring Apple for more than a year to clean up its act and commit to renewable energy.

A major sticking point has been Apple’s Maiden, N.C., facility, which is on the inexpensive but partially coal-powered Duke Energy grid. Apple had already started building a 100-acre solar array and a biogas energy plant on the site, but was still using Duke for a large chunk of the power at the 500,000-square-foot data center.

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Apple’s dirty energy supplier: ‘Nothing to see here’

Photo by Zoli Erdos.

The utility company that supplies power to Apple’s Maiden, N.C., data center has pulled a paper from its website that bragged about Apple’s energy-guzzling ways.

The paper was a puff piece talking about the reasons that Apple chose to hook its iCloud data center up to Duke Energy’s power grid. It lays out the backstory of an Apple lobbying effort, dating back to 2006, that ultimately landed a 500,000-square-foot data center -- code-named Project Dolphin -- in the wilderness of North Carolina.

“This was the best-kept secret in the data center world,” said Duke Energy Director of Business Development Stu Heishman, according to a copy of the report [PDF], which had formerly been located on a website run by Duke’s business development group.

The report also talks about Apple’s power consumption, a subject that has suddenly become controversial as Apple has come under fire for using too much energy from non-renewable sources at the Maiden data center. We don’t know why or when the report was pulled -- reached last week, Heishman said he didn’t remember the report -- but some of the statements in the report seem to be at odds with Apple’s image of Maiden as low-power consumer.

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Apple and Greenpeace trade blows in data-center grudge match

Apple's Maiden data center. (Photo by Garrett Fisher/Wired.)

Call it the battle of Maiden. This week, Apple and Greenpeace traded very public barbs over how much clean power is used by Apple’s $1 billion state-of-the-art data center in Maiden, N.C.

But it appears that much of the arguing stems from their inability to agree on what they’re arguing about.

On Monday, Greenpeace released a report calling Apple’s data center a power-hungry threat to the environment, but Apple responded by saying Greenpeace got its facts wrong. The key sticking point is a simple question: How much energy is Apple’s data center burning? Greenpeace says 100 megawatts, while Apple says it’s only 20 megawatts.

The truth may be somewhere in-between.