Google, Facebook and Apple Bring Clean Power to North Carolina

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Renewable energy in the United States accounts for about 13% of domestic electricity production. Of that renewable energy, 58% is from hydroelectric sources, 27% from wind, 11% from biomass, 3% from geothermal and less than 1% from solar. In North Carolina, most electricity is generated using coal or nuclear power. Only 3% of the state’s electricity is from renewable sources. Yet, North Carolina is one of the top 10 consumers of electricity in the nation. Some the top consumers of electricity in North Carolina are Google, Facebook and Apple data centers. In fact, North Carolina has the second most number of Data Center projects in the U.S.

To increase the green energy footprint in North Carolina, Apple constructed solar power and biogas fuel cell generating facilities. Apple’s solar farms use solar trackers and over 50,000 panels on 100 acres. Computer controllers constantly rotate the face of the panels to capture the most sunlight. To keep the grass mowed down under and around the panels, Apple hired a company with sheep to eat all of the growth. For its fuel cell facility, it uses biogas captured from decomposing organic matter from landfills and water treatment facilities.

Google took a different approach in North Carolina. Rather than build green facilities, Google as a large consumer of electricity has pushed the local utility, Duke Energy, to provide green power. When you are as big as Google, you have the purchasing power to get a utility’s attention. In response, Duke Energy has summited requests to the state’s regulatory body to allow for the additional production of renewable energy to be sold directly to the largest electricity consumers. Duke’s proposal would be in additional to the renewable goals already set for the state. Interestingly, it looks like the proposal would also pass along the Renewable Energy Certificates to those large consumers to trade or use to obtain energy tax credits.

Google admitted that it wanted more renewable energy in North Carolina even if that power came at a premium. Apple and Facebook, each also with large data centers in the state, would be able to participate in Duke’s program. According to Gary Cook of Greenpeace, if the cloud computing industry were a country, it would be the sixth-largest consumer of electricity in the world. That makes for one more reason for companies like Google to use their power to pressure the local utilities to move in a greener direction.

For more information:

Apple’s Renewable-energy http://www.apple.com/environment/renewable-energy/
Lenoir, NC Google Datacenter http://www.google.com/about/datacenters/locations/lenoir/
Greenpeace Tips Hat to Facebook and Google http://www.pcworld.com/article/2063480/greenpeace-tips-hat-to-facebook-google-for-renewable-energy-use.html

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