Apple: We are turning Green, not rotten


12 Jan 2012
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Apple: We are turning Green, not rotten

When Greenpeace went to town with its " Rotten Apple" accusation last week in India, the maker of best-selling gadgets iPad and iPhone was not amused.

Particularly because it had already refuted what it called was the Green guerrilla warrior's "over the top" hysterics in the US.

The latest accusation followed by demonstration in six countries, including India, in which Greenpeace singled out Apple for some environmental stick drew Cupertino, US-based Apple out of its usual shell to refute the charges.

An Apple spokeswoman was at pains to explain how before the survey Greenpeace representatives had been told their premise was erroneous. And yet, Greenpeace chose to focus on Apple, perhaps because using Apple's name would get it the required attention.

The American environmental NGO's report, 'How Green is your Cloud' pertains to the use of energy in running the data centres of top technology companies. The campaign - like most Greenpeace campaigns - was signed by lakhs of online users.

The Greenpeace report also castigated Microsoft, Amazon and Twitter with poor ranking.

"We love our iPhones, they make our lives better; but they shouldn't make the planet worse," a Greenpeace spokesman was quoted as saying.

According to Greenpeace report, Google, Facebook and Yahoo were among those who got a good ranking. Apple was given a 'D' ranking based on efficiency of datacenters, sharing information about power use, and lobbying utilities to provide clean energy. But the company got 'F' grading in terms of location of its datacenters in places where electricity to power them still comes largely from coal.

Two of Apple's data centres located in Maiden, North Carolina and Prineville, Oregon which were mentioned in the Greenpeace report, are being used to host its iCloud service.

"Our data center in North Carolina will draw about 20 megawatts at full capacity, and we are on track to supply more than 60% of that power on-site from renewable sources including a solar farm and fuel cell installation which will each be the largest of their kind in the country. We believe this industry-leading project will make Maiden the greenest data center ever built, and it will be joined next year by our new facility in Oregon running on 100% renewable energy," the Apple PR spokeswoman told The Times of India.

"We continue to work toward the goal of achieving a net zero energy programme for our corporate facilities worldwide. For more than 10 years, Apple has purchased renewable energy for our facilities around the globe. Our other facilities located in Cork, Ireland; Munich, Germany; Austin, Texas; and Elk Grove, California are currently using 100 percent renewable energy resources," she added.

Normally media reticent Apple refused to share exactly how many data centres it runs citing competitive reasons. The world over, the mushrooming of datacenters has led to huge electricity consumption by them. Organisations like Greenpeace keep tab on them every year in a bid to force them to use renewable sources of power.

"We also talk about a tiered, three-step approach to achieving our net zero goal including: ensuring our facilities are as energy efficient as possible; generating clean, renewable energy onsite and meeting the remaining need," claimed Apple.

"In terms of the crucial off-site renewable energy, Apple pursues grid-purchased renewable energy from newer projects to provide energy developers with incentives to create more renewable energy resources. We also favour projects located within the same state or grid region as our facilities, to positively influence local renewable energy development," pointed out the spokeswoman.

Interestingly, Apple also pointed out that the grid mix for Duke Energy, its utility provider in North Carolina, showed coal at 45%, rather than 61% in 2011 as reported by Greenpeace.

Apple claimed it was the first company to report its total carbon footprint and that its facilities only accounted for 2% of that while the product lifecycle accounts for 98%.

In Apple's 'Facilities Report', the North Carolina centre has been described as "exceptionally energy efficient" and has won the coveted LEED Platinum certification from the US Green Building Council. "We know of no other data center of comparable size that has achieved this level of LEED certification, said the Apple spokeswoman.

Interestingly, Apple claims it is building the largest directly-owned, onsite solar array in the US. When completed, this 100-acre, 20-megawatt facility will supply 42 million kWh of renewable energy annually.

It is also building a fuel cell installation that goes online later this year and will be the largest non-utility fuel cell installation in the US. This 5-megawatt facility will be powered by 100% biogas, and provide more than 40 million kWh of 24x7 baseload renewable energy annually.

However, many say that hydrogen fuel cells and even solar energy tech are yet to mature as a full-fledged alternative to non-renewable fossil fuels that currently power most of the world's humongous power-hungry facilities.

This is obviously not the first, nor likely the last, skirmish between the world's best known Green warrior and the world's best-selling gadgets maker.

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