Apple eyes solar to power the cloud and iPhone 6 screen manufacturing.

Guardian: “….The company, which once drew fire from campaigners for working conditions in China and heavy reliance on fossil fuels, is now leading other technology companies in controlling its own power supply and expanding its use of renewable energy.”
“After converting all of its data centres to clean energy, the Guardian understands Apple is poised to use solar power to manufacture sapphire screens for the iPhone 6, at a factory in Arizona.
And in a departure for its reputation for secretiveness, Apple is going out of its way to get credit for its green efforts.
….“We are aware that almost 70% of our carbon footprint is in our supply chain,” Jackson said. “We are actively working on the facilities that we have here in the United States”.
….Greenpeace now says the company is out ahead of competitors like Google and Facebook, which also operate data centres in North Carolina.
….The 55,000 solar panels tracking the course of the sun from a 400,000 square metre field across the road from Apple’s data centre in Maiden were not in the picture seven years ago when Duke Energy and local government officials sought to entice Apple to open up a data centre in North Carolina.
Duke Energy, which has a near monopoly over power supply in the Carolinas, set out to lure big companies like Apple, Facebook and Google to the state with offers of cheap and reliable power for the data centres that are the hub of internet.
Data centres, with their densely packed rows of servers and requirements for climatically controlled conditions, are notorious energy hogs. Some use as much power as a small city. In Apple’s case, the North Carolina data centre requires as much power as about 14,000 homes – about three times as much as the nearby town of Maiden.
Charging up a smart phone or tablet takes relatively little electricity, but watching an hour of streamed or internet video every week for a yearuses up about as much power as running two refrigerators for a yearbecause of the energy powering data centres elsewhere.
….In the early days, Apple bought renewable energy credits to cover the centre’s electricity use. In 2012, the company built its first solar farm across the road from the data centre.
Apple built a second solar farm, and announced plans this month for a third, all roughly about the same size, to keep up with the growing use of data. It also operates fuel cells, running on biogas pumped in from a landfill. All of the power generated on-site is fed into the electricity grid.
“On any given day 100% of the data centre’s needs are being generated by the solar power and the fuel cells,” Jackson said.
The company has been less successful in its efforts to get other companies to switch to solar power. Duke, in cooperation with Apple, launched an initiative last year to encourage other big electricity users to go solar but so far there have been no takers.
Renewable energy accounts for barely 2% of the power generated in North Carolina, and Duke does not see the share growing significantly by 2020.
Meanwhile, consumer groups accuse Duke of offering Apple cheap energy at the expense of ordinary residential customers and of blocking rooftop solar.
“We think Duke is actually trying to tamp down the solar industry in this state. They are accommodating big customers like Apple who want to do solar farms, but as far as rooftop solar or other solar developments they are doing things that hurt solar,” said Beth Henry, who sits on the board of NC Warn, a local environmental group.
It’s also questionable whether Apple can ever operate entirely off the grid. On bright sunny days, the solar farms generate excess power. But Apple still needs a back-up.
….What is clear is that Apple and the other big tech companies are in a race to control and clean up the cloud.
Google uses renewable energy to power about a third of its data centres. Facebook says its new Iowa data centre will run entirely off wind power when it comes on-line in 2011.
Microsoft earlier this month announced a second wind farm in Illinois to power its data centres.
That expansion of renewable energy on the cloud is likely to continue, Jackson said.”