updated 04:40 pm EDT, Thu April 21, 2011
NC center could 'triple' Apple power consumption
As part of a report (PDF) rating several high-tech companies, Greenpeace has made public a critical stance of Apple's cloud-based environmental impact. The "clean energy index" rating for Apple's data services is just 6.7 percent, versus the likes of 21 percent for Twitter, 36.4 percent for Google and 55.9 percent for Yahoo. Apple was also given a "coal intensity" rating of 54.5 percent, in theory making it the most intense polluter among the group because of relatively high power consumption versus its coal power dependence.
Each company in the report also has separate letter grades for transparency, infrastructure siting and mitigation. For the first category, Apple gets a C. "Although Apple has become increasingly transparent about the environmental footprint and operational performance of its products, especially laptops and iPhones, it has not been as forthcoming on the current or expected impacts of its online products," says Greenpeace. It notes that despite the importance of iTunes in online media, there is no data on associated environmental damage. Apple does, however, participate in the voluntary Carbon Disclosure Project.
The company's worst rating is an F for infrastructure siting. Greenpeace points to Apple's new data center, based in North Carolina, a state said to have one of the "dirtiest" electrical grids in the US by virtue of being 61 percent coal and 31 percent nuclear. Apple has a "lack of corporate commitment to clean energy supply," Greenpeace alleges, suggesting that because Virginia was an alternate location for the data center, Apple was more concerned with cheap energy than clean sources.
Mitigation gets the corporation another C. "Apple has reported a significant increase in the amount of clean energy it has purchased for its operations in the past two years, and has said that it will continue to look for sources of renewable energy and buy green power wherever it can be found," according to the report. "However, Apple has not declared a renewable energy or greenhouse gas target to shape this commitment. The massive [North Carolina] iDataCenter has estimated electricity demand (at full capacity) as high as triple Apple's current total reported electricity use, which will unfortunately have a significant impact on Apple's environmental footprint."
The North Carolina facility is valued at $1 billion, and set to open sometime this spring following delays. Apple has stated that the facility is intended for iTunes and MobileMe, backing numerous reports claiming that the company is interested in launching streaming and/or media locker services.