Video: Apple Preps Solar Power Site for iDataCenter

The exterior of the Apple data center facility in Maiden, North Carolina (Source: Apple)

It takes a lot of land to build a 20 megawatt array of solar panels. Apple has been busy clearing land in Maiden, North Carolina, where the company has announced plans for a huge field of photovoltaic solar panels to support its data center facility. A new aerial video shot this month by Five 9s Digital provides a sense of the scope of the property being dedicated to the new solar array. The land for the solar facility is across the road from the 500,000 square foot iDataCenter.

Earlier aerial videos from February 2010 and October 2010 provide a sense of how the landscape around the Apple facility is changing.

The Apple solar facility would be the largest solar array dedicated to data center operations, surpassing a 14 megawatt array being built to support the McGraw-Hill data center in East Windsor, New Jersey. Apple disclosed its renewable energy ambitions in Maiden in the company’s latest environmental report.

The use of huge solar arrays to support data centers has been debated this week, as Amazon’s James Hamilton suggested that the land use and economics of solar don’t scale to data center requirements.

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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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  1. Jeff

    Great news! We clear-cut this native forest, bulldozed the topsoil into oblivion, and now we are paving it! You won't believe how eco-friendly our solar array is going to be! /sarcasm Sorry, couldn't resist. Any comment on the cost/energy expended by this effort and how it will delay the ROI for this install? Usually, utility scale solar installs have a dreadfully long ROI, I can only imagine what this one must look like. Maybe Apple is getting Foxconn to make solar panels for them at pennies on the dollar?

  2. On the surface it looks good. But like Jeff said the ROI on these types of projects aren't seen until many years later. The tax incentives for this project must really look sweet. Apple as a brand has always had the motto think different, so projects like these are reinforcing their brand. That would be a nice info-graphic of how many iPad sales it took to build the Data Center.

  3. Apple doesn't invest in solar for PR purposes, what a waste of money if that was their motive.. I don't think your average user purchasing IPAD's/IPHONES really cares or even knows that Apple is putting up solar for their data center. I'm in the solar business and the ROI is definitely there. With panel prices falling to all time lows coupled with higher than ever energy output per panel.. it's become extremely economical. Not too mention that Apple is highly profitable and will receive a nice tax credit for the system. As soon as they turn this on, they will be generating free electricity and will save themselves millions of dollars today and in the future as electricity rates continue their upward trend. I can't think of a better solar project than to generate power for a data center which has such huge demands. Apple is in business to make money.. and cutting costs or managing them is the best way.. this project only reinforces to me how smart and great Apple really is!

  4. Jeff

    Lisa, can you share any numbers with us? The thing that makes me wonder about this project is that it wasnt just a rooftop add-on in space that already existed (or was perhaps engineered for that purpose) but instead it was several acres that they have to clear, grade, and prep (not cheap at all) before they can even invest in the panels. I (and everyone else) would love love LOVE to see the numbers behind this, but until then we are going to be pretty skeptical.