This is a follow-up to Apple’s press release, which dropped Monday.
Mark Sullivan, Fast Company:
You have to see Apple’s Reno, Nevada, data center from the inside to truly understand how huge it is. It’s made up of five long white buildings sitting side by side on a dry scrubby landscape just off I-80, and the corridor that connects them through the middle is a quarter-mile long. On either side are big, dark rooms–more than 50 of them–filled with more than 200,000 identical servers, tiny lights winking in the dark from their front panels. This is where Siri lives. And iCloud. And Apple Music. And Apple Pay.
Powering all these machines, and keeping them cool, takes a lot of power–constant, uninterrupted, redundant power. At the Reno data center, that means 100% green power from three different Apple solar farms.
Now Apple says it’s finished getting the rest of its facilities running on 100% green power–from its new Apple Park headquarters, which has one of the largest solar roofs on the planet, to its distribution centers and retail stores around the world. Though the 100% figure covers only Apple’s own operations–not those of of the suppliers and contract manufacturers which do much of the work of bringing its ideas to life–it’s also convinced 23 companies in its supply chain to sign a pledge to get to 100% renewable energy for the portion of their business relating to Apple products.
Part of this equation is Renewable Energy Certificates:
One REC is equal to a single megawatt of power produced from a renewable energy source.
It turns out RECs (like carbon credits) can be sold independent of the energy itself. So it’s also possible for a large power consumer to buy only the RECs–and not the power–from a renewable energy project and use them to offset its use of dirty energy at one of its own facilities.
Apple could easily go down that road, buying its way to green. This from VP of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives Lisa Jackson:
“I am not aware of any other company that uses that same stringency for making sure the clean power that they’re investing in or purchasing is on the regional grid where it’s being used,” she boasts. But she acknowledges that there are still places in the world where that’s not possible, though that may have more to do with the reality of power markets than choices Apple has made. In some cases, the company has had to sign long-term contracts to acquire the RECs from a new project it helped create elsewhere in the same region. That was the case recently for a two-person office in Chile. There was no suitable green energy source nearby, so Apple is now offsetting the brown power used by that office with RECs from one of its green-power projects in Brazil.
Apple does not need to do this. They could simply buy their way into compliance. Credit where credit is due.