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Apple makes renewable energy push with solar, fuel cells

Customers visit the Apple store on 5th Avenue in New York, September 19, 2012. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Customers visit the Apple store on 5th Avenue in New York, September 19, 2012. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

By Poornima Gupta

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple Inc now runs its largest U.S. data center entirely on renewable energy, with a majority of the power generated on-site from solar panels and fuel cells, the company's chief financial officer, Peter Oppenheimer, said on Thursday.

The data center in Maiden, North Carolina, which supports Internet storage and Apple's service-hosting iCloud product, produces 167 million kilowatts -- the power equivalent of 17,600 homes for one year -- from a 100-acre solar farm and fuel cell installations provided by Silicon Valley startup Bloom Energy.

They are the largest, non-utility power-generating facilities of their kind in the United States, Oppenheimer told Reuters.

"We switched over to these new energy sources in December," he said. "And we are committed to generating 60 percent of the electricity that the data center will use by making power on site. We are now achieving that goal."

Apple purchases the rest of the green power needed at the facility.

Apple and other technology companies -- such as Amazon and Microsoft -- that build and run computer server farms have come under criticism for their high consumption of electricity and other resources. These data centers cater to an explosion in Internet traffic, streaming content through mobile devices and hosting of services to corporations.

Apple has switched many of its corporate facilities to fully operate on green power, including those in Austin, Texas; Cork, Ireland; and Sacramento, California, Oppenheimer said.

The company is building another 20-megawatt solar farm at its Maiden facility with solar panels supplied by SunPower Corp.

Overall, Apple said it has increased the proportion of renewable energy used throughout the company to 75 percent. Eventually, the company aims to use only renewable energy at all its facilities around the world.

(Reporting By Poornima Gupta; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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