Apple is producing enough clean power, through solar panels and fuel cells, at its data center in North Carolina that it says it can cover 60 percent of the total energy needs of the data center. Will the tech giant be doing the same thing at its new planned $1 billion data center just outside of Reno, Nevada? While details are few at this point, it sure looks like Apple is looking to have a significant amount of its data center power needs met with clean, and grid-independent, power.
If it gets approval, Apple plans to build its data center at Reno Technology Park, a new 2,200-acre business property being developed by the Unique Infrastructure Group. The CTO of Unique Infrastructure Group KC Mares confirmed the deal on his Twitter feed. Mares is a data center industry infrastructure player that has been working on energy efficient data center plans for years.
According to this Data Center Knowledge article from a few years ago, The Reno Technology Park plans to provide 300 MW of on-site power generation from natural gas, as well as potentially another 140 MW from clean power. That clean power could come from 100 MW of wind power, 20 MW of solar panels and 20 MW from geothermal energy. I’m not sure on the latest plans for clean power at The Reno Technology Park. Nevada has a lot of solar and geothermal resources.
The Reno Technology Park is also within a mile of the utility NV Energy’s power island which has 540 MW of grid capacity, said Data Center Knowledge. Greenpeace says that NV Energy has an energy mix of 62 percent natural gas, 20 percent coal and 6 percent clean power — not great, but not terrible for a standard utility.
The unusual part of The Reno Technology Park is the addition of ample grid-independent power. Apple could potentially have the ability to go off the grid. Mares told Data Center Knowledge back in 2010 that the key differentiator for the Reno site and others is “the project’s approach to energy, which enlarges the traditional role of the data center builder to act as both landlord and electric utility.” Mares also estimated that the on-site power would be able to provide customers’ energy for 5.5 cents per kilowatt hour. In comparison North Carolina’s Duke Energy can offer power for between 4 to 6 cents per kilowatt hour.
Greenpeace, citing a study commissioned by Apple, estimates that Apple’s data center near Reno will use about 35 MW of power in its first five years of life, and will require a total of 70 MW of power when it reaches full capacity after ten years. Greenpeace also quotes the study as stating that “after year five they [Apple] would begin producing their own power through alternative sources.”
Greenpeace says it will re-score Apple for its How Clean Is Your Cloud? ranking system based on Apple’s announcements about clean power for its North Carolina site and this Reno site.