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Apple buys hydroelectric facility to help power Prineville data center

updated 10:08 pm EDT, Sat April 12, 2014

Original plans for project called for 3-5Mw energy generation on seasonal basis

In order to help power its Prineville, Oregon data center with renewable energy as promised, Apple has taken over a small hydroelectric project located about two miles north of the Haystack Reservoir and 45 miles downstream from the intake. It is unclear how far the project had progressed before Apple acquired it, but original plans called for it generate 3-5 megawatts of energy on a seasonal basis, closing in the winter when the irrigation canal it relies on is shut.

Example of small hydroelectric generating station
Example of small hydroelectric generating station


Apple had already said during the approvals process for the Prineville center that it would primarily be powered by wind energy purchased from local utilities, and that it planned to also employ solar arrays (and has looked into nearby land for that purpose) and "micro-hydro power" as well. The hydroelectric project was planned to divert water out of the irrigation canal for approximately half a mile, run it through a hydroelectric turbine, then discharge it back into the canal.

The amount of power the turbine would generate was small compared to Apple's requirements: only enough to power 2,100 to 2,500 homes by most estimates. A typical data center can use anywhere up to 30 megawatts of power on an annual basis. The original creator of the project EBD Hydro, transferred the property to Apple in November, new filings show.

In 2011, EBD received a $7.2 million federal loan guarantee for the project and had anticipated that construction would begin at the end of that year. While the current state of facilities isn't know, it appears the project was not yet online. Apple's need for power will grow in the future, as filings have shown that the company is planning to expand the Prineville center, possibly doubling the number of structures. At present it has two 338,000 square foot buildings there.




by MacNN Staff

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Comments

  1. GDeezy

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 04-13-14

    I don't know a lot about power generation, so curious as to what readers think: what is the business benefit / need for Apple to control their electric supply? Obviously, they can manage their own supply of power, but are their shortages there, or no public utility able to fulfill their needs?

  1. DiabloConQueso

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 06-11-08

    Since Apple has a literal crap-ton of money, it makes sense in the long run to own their own power generation facilities. That way, they don't pay any markup (or extremely little) at all to an energy company on the power they use.

    Power is one of the most costly consumables. Apple is betting on the long-term and will pay significantly less than those that choose to "lease" their power and pay an energy company month after month what with their hybrid model of owning their own power-generation stations (hydroelectric, solar, etc.) and also purchasing energy the traditional way, through a local power company.

  1. chas_m

    MacNN Staff

    Joined: 08-04-01

    As DCQ notes, power is the biggest ongoing expense of a data centre. This individual action will not lower their bills that much, but combined with solar and other generation they control, it has the potential to very dramatically lower the cost of running the facility.

  1. macjockey

    Junior Member

    Joined: 06-23-04

    haha, and I was thinking it was something like the Hoover Dam

  1. coffeetime

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: 11-15-06

    A couple more windmills and Apple is all set.

  1. chas_m

    MacNN Staff

    Joined: 08-04-01

    Hydroelectric is a pretty amazingly efficient way to produce power. I'm always a bit dumbfounded as to why the US hasn't utilized it more.

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