Dirty Data Centre Will Poison Apple Greenpeace Warns
Apple is set to produce some of the dirtiest data in the world in North Carolina, according to Greenpeace
A report from environmental watchdog Greenpeace found that although Apple has become increasingly transparent about the environmental footprint and operational performance of its products, especially laptops and iPhones, it has not been as forthcoming about the current or expected impacts of its online products.
The watchdog’s research revealed that while many IT companies have pointed to the environmental benefits of downloading entertainment over traditional delivery methods, iTunes, one of the largest online destinations for such media, does not provide any data to evaluate these claims. In consequence, it does not allow comparison with offerings from other vendors, even though Apple does participate in the Carbon Disclosure Project voluntary reporting programme.
Apple’s Dark Data Centre Secret
Greenpeace researchers found that Apple previously touted its operations in California as much cleaner than those that use energy produced on the average grid. However, its decision to locate its imminent iDataCenter to North Carolina indicates a “lack of a corporate commitment to clean energy supply” for its cloud operations. North Carolina has an electrical grid that is among the dirtiest in the US (61 percent coal, 31 percent nuclear).
“The fact that the alternative location for Apple’s iDataCenter was Virginia, where electricity also comes from very dirty sources, is an indication that, in addition to tax incentives, access to inexpensive energy, regardless of its source, is a key driver in Apple’s site selection,” the report said.
Apple has reported a significant increase in the amount of clean energy it has purchased for its operations in the past two years and has said that it will continue to look for sources of renewable energy and buy green power wherever it can be found. However, the report also noted that it has not declared a renewable energy or greenhouse gas target to shape this commitment.
“The massive iDataCenter has estimated electricity demand (at full capacity) as high as triple Apple’s current total reported electricity use, which will unfortunately have a significant impact on Apple’s environmental footprint,” the report stated.
Google’s Dirty Washing
Among major cloud brands, Google talks the best and most consistently about the need to not only increase efficiency but also to move to renewable sources of electricity to power the cloud, the report said. “But if Google is serious about climate leadership, it should open source its emissions footprint, confess to the world that it has a carbon problem, and put its mitigation strategies on the table so others in the sector can learn from and build on them,” the report noted.
Google only publicly acknowledges the existence of seven data centres globally, though informed estimates place its fleet in the range of 20 to 30 data centres. The report also noted Google fails to disclose information on its energy use or greenhouse gas emissions, though it claims to be carbon neutral through the purchasing of carbon offsets and renewable energy.
Google needs to be transparent about the size and growth of its carbon problem and follow in the footsteps of other companies that have set absolute reduction targets,” the report said. “Google does participate in the Carbon Disclosure Project voluntary reporting programme, but provides very little actual data on its operational footprint or energy use.”