Greenpeace re-grades Apple in green data center report

Changes to the nonprofit's clean cloud roadmap reflect the company's renewable energy commitments, but Apple doesn't yet get an "A" for effort.

The Apple green data center saga continues. Greenpeace is acknowledging the company's growing commitments to renewable energy with an updated analysis to its "How Clean Is Your Cloud?" report, rating the energy sourcing plans of various big cloud service providers. Other companies ranked in that report include Microsoft, Amazon and Google.

Back in April, Greenpeace slammed Apple, Amazon and Microsoft for the sin of sourcing too much data center energy with electricity generated by coal-fired plants. Since then, Apple has disclosed that it plans to power its data center in Maiden, N.C., entirely from renewable energy sources by the end of 2012. That amounts to 20 megawatts of electricity draw at full capacity.

The installation will include 100-acre solar arrays that will each offer approximately 40 megawatts of capacity; both will offer somewhere around 42 million kilowatt-hours of clean energy annually. Apple also is building a 5-megawatt fuel cell installation using technology from Bloom Energy, also scheduled to come online late this year.

That's great, but Apple doesn't yet get an "A" for effort, according to Greenpeace.

The updated analysis, "A Clean Energy Road Map for Apple," raises Apple's scores in several areas including its marks for renewables and advocacy, and energy efficiency and greenhouse gas mitigation. The company now gets a "C" instead of a "D" in these areas. But it still gets the same low grades for energy transparency and infrastructure siting.

The report authors write:

"Utlimately if Apple wants to get serious about its commitment to a coal-free iCloud, the most important thing it can do is use its buying leverage with Duke Energy and other utilities to push for cleaner electricity options. ... Just as Apple has been widely asked to actively engage with other aspects of its supply chain to push for fairer labor standards, Apple must do the same with its electricity supply chain."

Of course, Greenpeace has some helpful suggestions. Among the list of things it wants Apple to do:

Choose a renewable-powered local utility for its Oregon data center

Use renewable electricity from onsite generation to directly power its facility, rather than selling the energy to Duke Energy (as it plans)

Secure a source of biogas to run the Bloom Energy fuel cells


Apple is notoriously quiet on matters like these, but here's hoping it takes some of these suggestions to heart.

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