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This Tune Provided to You By Mr. Sun…

July 3, 2013

Would anyone like a bite of a nice Green Apple?

Apple has announced that it will partner with Nevada’s largest power company to build a solar farm to juice its data center in Reno, Nevada.

The new photovoltaic power source, to be built in partnership with NV Energy, will pump 43.5 million kilowatt hours per year into the grid that will power the data center, Reuters reports.

The combination of photovoltaic and geothermal power will allow the Reno data center to be powered completely by renewable sources, as is the Maiden data center – although, of course, there are likely to be dirty ol’ diesel-powered generators at the ready in case something should go awry.

There’s a great story about the datacenter businesses working to mitigate the power they consume.  While some minor backlash has hit on the internet companies, they’ve so far been immune, probably because hip and cool high-tech just doesn’t sell to the public as an evil empire.  Well, unless they hand info to the NSA…

There’s actually another story that’s more interesting, at least to me.  You need several things to land a huge datacenter, among them: land, reliable power, stable geological characteristics, and… proximity to the main communications trunk.  That last one limits datacenter placement more than nearly anything.  Go ask Iceland if they have any datacenters knocking on their door yet… not until someone routes from Europe to America through the little island.  So there are actually a pretty limited amount of places that fit the bill worldwide right now.  Apple is leading a charge to find new sources outside of hydroelectric, and the big solar arrays are a decent try.

I do have some concerns as to the reliability of solar, though that’s probably not a big problem in Reno.  But the North Carolina deployments do have some risk there.  I’m very interested to see how this shapes in the future.  I doubt that hydro will go away as the main power source anytime soon… so when’s that growth in the Amazon Basin going to start?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 10, 2013 10:31 pm

    I followed with interest what was touted as the largest private solar installation, in Death Valley, by Xanterra. As I examined their public filings, it became obvious that the facility was much tougher to build, was more costly, and had a far longer payback period than they had projected.

    It seems that solar panels get dusty in the desert, cutting deeply into their productivity. Also, the desert environment is very tough on their systems in general. Last I heard, Xanterra still hoped for a payback … someday.

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

    • July 10, 2013 10:42 pm

      My company put solar panels on rooftops and some parking structures. I don’t think we did it for payoff, but to show that we are friendly in terms of energy use. I suppose as long as a company is willing to spend the money to feel good about its corporate self, then the shareholders get to decide whether they feel good about it as well.

      • July 10, 2013 10:55 pm

        Indeed: Xanterra’s clients encompassed federal and state governments, including many parks and monuments. It was literally a contract requirement for them to demonstrate their greenness. So the payoff would come as it usually does for renewable power: in taxpayer dollars.

        ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

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