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Apple Risks Greenpeace Ire With Oregon Data Centre

Apple is considering a data centre in Prineville Oregon, near to Facebook, a move sure to anger Greenpeace

On by Tom Jowitt 0

Apple is reportedly considering following in the footsteps of Facebook by building a mammoth data centre in Prineville, Oregon.

However if the reports are true, the move will surely incur the wrath of environmental campaigners Greenpeace.

According to OregonLive.com, which cited two people with direct knowledge of Apple’s plans, Apple is close to making a decision about whether to build a large data centre in Prineville, which will be located a quarter mile south of the Facebook server farm that opened in 2011.

Attractive County

Apple is reportedly negotiating under the codename Maverick for a 160-acre site currently owned by Crook County. It plans to build a 31-megawatt data centre on the site. The company must make a decision by the end of the month or risk losing the option to buy the land.

The area is proving to be very popular for data centres for three reasons.

The first is the favourable property tax breaks the state of Oregon gives companies to build facilities there. Secondly is the cool local climate. Thirdly and perhaps most importantly, the area enjoys low-cost power.

However it is highly likely that this Apple data centre will take electricity from the local power provider PacifiCorp. It is understood that the local power supply in the area is currently maxed out because of the demands from the Facebook data centre, but there is an ongoing upgrade in Crook county’s electrical transmission capacity which should be completed by June 2013. This will provide companies such as Apple with the power it needs for a large data centre.

Cheap But Dirty?

Unfortunately PacifiCorp is an energy company which makes two thirds of its power using coal, which is a major concern for Greenpeace.

Back in March this year the environmental campaigner launched a TV advertising campaign as part of its efforts against Facebook’s policy of building data centres where the majority of the electricity supply comes from coal-fired power stations.

Coal is “the number one contributor to climate change,” Greenpeace said, before urging Facebook to unfriend coal and help the the energy revolution.

Greenpeace Campaign

Those adverts were an escalation of Greenpeace’s media war, which has previous been conducted with Youtube videos challenging Facebook. Greenpeace hopes to get Facebook to stop using coal-fired electricity and instead use clean, safe, renewable energy. Eventually it wants Facebook to develop a plan to mitigate its climate footprint and become coal-free by 2021.

Greenpeace has been trying to persuade Facebook to drop coal for a while now, using channels such as a dedicated Facebook page. This was set up after it singled out out Facebook in September 2010 because of its decision to site its data centre in Oregon and thereby use electricity from PacificCorp.

Facebook, for its part, has already defended its new data centre, saying the Oregon facility is one of the most energy-efficient in the world, with a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) rating of 1.15.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace had to defend itself last year after data centre experts pointed out that the electricity needs of Greenpeace’s own web servers, were mostly met through coal and nuclear powered electricity. Greenpeace however pointed out that it has only 2,000 employees, and much smaller traffic than that generated by Facebook’s 600 million users. It also offsets its carbon output.

Apple has also previously faced stiff criticism from Greenpeace over the so called ‘toxicity’ of its products.

Tom Jowitt

Author: Tom Jowitt

Freelance TechWeek Reporter
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