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Apple takes bolder stand on renewable energy, aims for 'net zero' goal

updated 12:35 am EDT, Thu July 10, 2014

All Australian Apple Stores, more than 140 US stores now using 100 percent green energy

On Wednesday, Apple released its fiscal 2014 Environmental Responsibility Report and announced through it that the company will focus on achieving "net zero energy use," a goal it has already accomplished with all 21 of its Australian retail stores and 140 of its US outlets, alongside its latest data centers and its forthcoming Apple Campus 2 headquarters. The solar array that supplies most of the power used at the Maiden, North Carolina data center is the largest privately-owned array in the country.

Solar farm at Maiden, NC data center
Solar farm at Maiden, NC data center

That solar array supplies between 60 and 100 percent of the energy needs of the facility, but overages are handled through on-site biogas facilities. Apple is currently building a second solar array and just recently bought another 100 acres for a third array, which it may use to power future expansions of the data center.

The report, the first issued under the auspices of Apple Environmental Initiative VP and former EPA head Lisa Jackson, also mentions that the company has dramatically reduced packaging and cut the amount of energy its devices require by 57 percent since 2008. The retail stores, which don't have access to grounds for solar arrays or biofuel installations, are powered by purchasing "green energy" through third parties or by participating in utility company green tariff programs that ensure the supplied power comes from a renewable energy source such as wind or solar.

Jobs inspecting special airflow vents for Campus 2
Jobs inspecting special airflow vents for Campus 2

The future Apple Campus 2, designed in part by Steve Jobs alongside architect Norman Foster, has also been engineered to be as energy-efficient as possible and expects to achieve "net zero" status. Apple will make use of all available rooftops to create "one of the largest corporate solar energy installations in the world" and leverage the architecture of the building itself to promote natural air flow, reducing the need for conventional air conditioning.

The facility is said to include more than 1,000 shared bicycles for employees, and workers will be encouraged to make use of available ride-sharing, car-pooling and provided biodiesel-powered shuttle busses. The busses, already in use by Google, Apple and other tech firms, have engendered some controversy among charges that it aids in the gentrification of urban areas, forcing long-time residents out and installing well-paid tech workers -- however, even opponents acknowledge that the busses are useful in reducing traffic and avoiding additional carbon emissions equivalent to nearly 6,400 automobiles. Apple also already offers electric car-charging points on its campus and other facilities.

Apple's 2013 carbon footprint

The report also covers Apple's recycling efforts, working with local reclamation programs. By weight, says Jackson, incoming recyclable material accounts for "well over 80 percent" of product the company released seven years ago. Thanks to decreasing size of products -- the iPad helping replace notebooks, the iPhone, and today's smaller Macs -- and lighter packaging, the mix of incoming material will continue to improve as product life-cycles go by.

by MacNN Staff



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