updated 02:50 am EDT, Sat April 7, 2012
Expansion shows where Apple green tech will go
A first collection of aerial photos has shown just how Apple is expanding its Maiden, North Carolina datacenter for iCloud. The Wired images have shown the ground cleared just next to the datacenter for the upcoming Bloom Energy fuel cells to translate biogases into electricity. The much larger area known to be in progress across from Startown Road should be for the 20-megawatt solar power farm.
While the existences of the facilities by themselves weren't mysteries, the layouts show both the potential and some of the sacrifices Apple has made to get the area. The fuel cell area is small enough that Apple could still build an expansion of the datacenter proper immediately adjacent to the main building. Its solar plant, however, has seen it clear significant forest area out of the needed 100 acres, ironically damaging the environment to help preserve it.
Apple is aiming to improve its reputation for its facilities, which have been accused of using "dirty" power like coal to run. The solar array has come under fire, however, for being an inefficient use of space. On cloudy days, the solar power may generate less energy than the biogas section. Apple may be counting on the fuel cells storing some of the excess power from sunny days.
The total effect should be to power much, if not all, of the datacenterusing entirely renewable sources. Other companies, like Facebook, emphasize green energy, but aren't expected to reach Apple's scale.