Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has acquired a hydroelectric project as a potential source of renewable energy for its new data center in Prineville, Oregon, reports The Oregonian. Large data centers like the 338,000-square-foot facility in Prineville are notorious electricity hogs, since the centers must power huge banks of computers, as well as the air conditioning units used to cool them. However, Apple has historically been an industry leader in renewable energy usage and the iPhone maker claims that it has already achieved 100 percent renewable energy at all of its data centers. Apple’s data centers provide storage for the Cupertino-based company’s iTunes Store, App Store, and iCloud services.
The 45-mile hydroelectric project was previously owned by EBD Hydro according to The Oregonian. Although the previous owner secured $7 million in federal loan guarantees and a $1.5 million federal grant to help finance the construction, it’s unclear if the facility is producing electricity yet. According to federal filings cited by The Bulletin, EBD Hydro transferred ownership of the property to Apple last November. The property is located approximately twenty miles from Apple’s data center in Prineville.
Although the project will give Apple another source of renewable energy, it will not provide nearly enough electricity to fully supply the Prineville data center. According to The Bulletin, EBD Hydro previously estimated that the hydroelectric facility would generate 3 to 3.5 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power 2,100 to 2,450 homes. However, large data centers such as the one in Prineville can consume 30 megawatts or more. The hydroelectric facility will also have to be shut down during the winter months when the irrigation canal that it diverts water from is closed, according to The Oregonian.
An Apple spokesperson told The Bulletin that the Prineville data center is currently fulfilling most of its electricity requirements from local renewable wind energy. According to Apple’s website, the company is also “actively working on other renewable energy options.”
One of these other energy options may be a solar array similar to the one Apple built for its data center in Maiden, North Carolina. According to Apple’s website, the Maiden data center is powered by a 100-acre, 20-megawatt onsite solar photovoltaic array, as well as a second 20-megawatt solar farm on nearby land. Apple has also built a 10-megawatt fuel cell installation that runs on biogas.
Earlier this year, Prineville Mayor Betty Roppe told OPB that the city and the county had made a zoning agreement with Apple for additional land that may be used for a solar array. “My understanding is that they will create the solar farm and then they will sell that back to the companies that they actually get their electricity from,” said Mayor Roppe.
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