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Apple eyes solar to power the cloud and iPhone 6 sapphire manufacturing

 

Apple's Solar Farm

Apple’s Maiden data centre in North Carolina is powered by a large 20MW solar farm and biogas fuel cells. Photograph: Apple Inc

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Apple eyes solar to power the cloud and iPhone 6 sapphire manufacturing” was written by Suzanne Goldenberg in Maiden, for theguardian.com on Friday 25th July 2014 14.50 UTC

The skies are threatening to pour on the Apple solar farm but as the woman in-charge of the company’s environmental initiatives points out: the panels are still putting out some power. Apple is still greening its act.

The company, which once drew fire from campaigners for working conditions in China and heavy reliance on fossil fuels, is now leading other technology companies in controlling its own power supply and expanding its use of renewable energy.

After converting all of its data centres to clean energy, the Guardian understands Apple is poised to use solar power to manufacture sapphire screens for the iPhone 6, at a factory in Arizona.

And in a departure for its reputation for secretiveness, Apple is going out of its way to get credit for its green efforts.

“We know that our customers expect us to do the right thing about these issues,” Lisa Jackson, the vice-president of environmental initiatives told the Guardian.

In July, the company invited journalists on a rare tour of its data centre in North Carolina to showcase its efforts.

Until a year ago, the telegenic Jackson was the front woman for Barack Obama’s environmental ambitions as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Now she is leading the effort to shrink Apple’s carbon footprint – and make sure customers realise the company is doing its bit to decarbonise its products and the internet.

Data centres require huge loads of electricity to maintain climatic conditions and run the servers carrying out billions of electronic transactions every day.

With Apple’s solar farm, customers could now be confident that downloading an app or video-chatting a friend would not increase carbon pollution, Jackson said.

“If you are using your iPhone, iPad, Siri or downloading a song, you don’t have to worry if you are contributing to the climate change problem in the world because Apple has already thought about that for you. We’ve taken care of that. We’re using clean energy,” she said.

Lisa Jackson

Lisa Jackson, the former administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency, is now Apples’ front woman on green issues. Photograph: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

The company is also moving to install solar and geothermal power at a plant in Mesa, Arizona that has been manufacturing sapphire glass. Apple would not directly comment on the Arizona factory but the state’s governor, Jan Brewer, has publicly praised the company’s decision to relocate there and to use solar and geothermal in manufacturing.

“We are aware that almost 70% of our carbon footprint is in our supply chain,” Jackson said. “We are actively working on the facilities that we have here in the United States”.

The initiatives mark a turnaround for Apple, which was criticised in the past for working conditions and the use of toxic chemicals at its factories in China and for its heavy reliance on carbon intensive sources such as coal to power the cloud.

 

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