Apple unveils specs for large solar array in North Carolina amidst overseas environmental criticism

apple data center via TechCrunchMore news of Apple’s monster data center in-progress near Maiden, North Carolina has surfaced. The company’s latest 2012 facilities report details Apple’s impact on the environment, and highlights the upcoming data center’s energy-efficient design elements, as well as the center’s renewable energy approach.

According to the report, the Maiden facility–also code-named ‘Project Dolphin’ by the Cupertino company–will be fed by “the nation’s largest end user-owned, onsite solar array.” Last fall, it was reported that Apple had bought and cleared land next to the Maiden build site for this solar farm. The company projects that the 100-acre, 20-megawatt facility will be able to pump out 42 million kWh of renewable energy each year.

Along with that solar array, the company is building a fuel cell installation, which will be directly adjacent to the Maiden data center, and is expected to be online later in 2012. Apple is again making sure this isn’t just big, but the “largest non-utility fuel cell installation operating anywhere in the country.” 100 percent of the power for the 5-megawatt facility will be from biogas, and will be providing an estimated 40 million kWh of renewable energy annually. The company has already gone forward with a 500-kilowatt biogass fuel cell project for its Cupertino, California corporate facilities, and reports that the installation has helped avoid more than 1.2 million kilograms of CO2e emissions.

Apple boasts LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for the data center’s plans. Complementing center’s renewable energy, the company also details a number of green building design elements, such as the white-cool roof design for solar reflectivity, the 14 percent recycled materials used for construction and the 93 percent of construction waste diverted from landfills. The company is also pushing for real-time power monitoring, a chilled water storage system, use of outside air cooling and other methods to ensure precision when managing cooling.

apple data center 2This timely environmental update which spotlights the enormous local data center comes as the company has been increasingly criticized overseas for its environmental impact. Last fall, the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental (IPE) Affairs released a 46-page report detailing how Apple knowingly employed suppliers that ignored China’s environmental laws. Apple, replied then by saying that several suppliers in the report were not part of the company’s supply chain.

Earlier this year, 36 Chinese environmental groups published a report that criticized Apple for its lack of response in regards to worker health or environmental concerns. The highlight of the report is an incident at Lianjiang Technologies where 49 workers were exposed to toxins–some needing hospitalization for more than six months

In both cases, Apple stated that it is “committed to ensuring the highest standards of social responsibility.” According to USA Today, those high standards may soon be put to an independent environmental review. Ma Jun from the IPE was told by the company that, in the future, at least two of the suppliers’ factories in the country will be subject to review; that number could possibly expand to more factories. In addition to the audit, the activists say that Apple will use the IPE’s pollution database to monitor the environmental responsibility of all its suppliers.

Via TechCrunch

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