Apple Building Mammoth Solar Array in North Carolina, but State’s Electricity ‘Dirtiest’ in Country

Apple just released its annual environmental update, which whether you view it skeptically or not, comes with an intriguing surprise: The company says it's planning to build a massive 100-acre solar array to power a new data center in North Carolina.

In its “Facilities Report: 2012 Environmental Update," after describing all the energy improvements it claims to have made from 2006 forward, Apple mentions the 2011-commissioned Maiden, North Carolina data center, a facility it says “demonstrates [its] commitment to reduce the environmental impact of our facilities through energy- efficient, green building design."

Boasts Cupertino: “The facility is exceptionally energy efficient and has earned the coveted LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. We know of no other data center of comparable size that has achieved this level of LEED certification."

The LEED rating—the name stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design"—isn't without its issues, but as a benchmark for “building sustainability," it's probably the most prestigious rating a company can earn, and “Platinum" is at the tip-top of a scale that includes (in rank order) “Certified," “Silver" and “Gold." The first structure in the U.S. to receive it was a building in Washington, D.C., and that only a few years ago. The D.C. building reportedly earned top marks for its “low-emissive glass in the curtain wall combined with chillers for energy efficiency and a solar-reflective roof with an 8,000-square-foot vegetated area to reduce heat island effect and peak storm runoff."

Apple's Maiden center will itself include its own battery of environmental conservation measures, including outside-air cooling mechanics, higher voltage power (to increase efficiency by reducing power loss), LED lighting with motion sensors, a “construction process" sourced from recycled and local materials and a “white cool-roof design to provide maximum solar reflectivity."

And that's just what's inside the building. Cupertino says it'll power much of the facility with what it describes as “the nation's largest end user-owned, onsite solar array," built on land surrounding the data center. We're talking 100-acres, 20-megawatts big. Apple says it'll supply the Maiden facility with 42 million kWh of “clean, renewable energy" each year.

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