Apple unveils 18-megawatt solar farm to power cloud data center

Fort Churchill Solar Array is part of Apple's plan to power its data centers with 100% renewable energy

Apple plans to build an 18-megawatt solar power plant to power a new data center in Reno.

Apple announced the Nevada solar power facility in its 2012 "Environmental Footprint Report."

"We will be making use of the excellent natural solar radiation and geothermal resources in Nevada to completely meet the energy needs of our data center," Apple wrote in its report.

Apple will construct the 18-megawatt photovoltaic solar plant just east of Reno, in Yerington, Nev. Known as the Fort Churchill Solar Array, the facility is part of Apple's plan to power its data center with 100% renewable energy. The plans for the facility were included this week in a filing by NV Energy Inc. to the Nevada Public Utilities Commission.

In a statement, Apple said all of its data centers use 100% renewable energy, "and we are on track to meet that goal in our new Reno data center using the latest in high-efficiency concentrating solar panels."

"The project will not only supply renewable energy for our data center but also provide clean energy to the local power grid, through a first-of-its-kind partnership with NV Energy. When completed, the 137 acre solar array will generate approximately 43.5 million kilowatt hours of clean energy, equivalent to taking 6,400 passenger vehicles off the road per year," the statement said.

Apple said its new data center will be located in Reno, and it said it will be "every bit" as environmentally responsible as its Maiden, N.C. data center. Apple uses a 100-acre solar energy farm to power its Maiden, N.C., data center. That energy farm can produce about 20 million kilowatt hours.

Apple is building a second site at Maiden that will do another 20 million kilowatt hours, according to Apple spokesman Nick Leahy.

At full capacity, Apple's Maiden data center draws about 20 megawatts of power. The solar array provides up to 60% of the power used in its data center, according to Leahy.

"We'll meet the remaining 40% of our energy needs by directly purchasing clean, renewable energy generated by local and regional sources," Leahy said during an interview earlier this year with Computerworld.

The 137-acre solar array is expected to generate about 43.5 million kilowatt hours of renewable power, according to published reports.

According to PV Magazine, Apple is working with SunPower to develop the Nevada solar array.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian, or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His email address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

Read more about data center in Computerworld's Data Center Topic Center.

This story, "Apple unveils 18-megawatt solar farm to power cloud data center" was originally published by Computerworld.

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