Apple has gotten a lot of pushback in recent years for its questionable environmental policies, and rightfully so. But we need to give credit where it’s due. This week, the technology giant announced in its latest environmental report that all of its data centers run on 100% renewable energy sources.
Data centers are one of the biggest—and most wasteful—sources of energy consumption for tech companies; a recent New York Times report found that they waste at least 90% of the electricity they take from the grid. Today, data centers suck up 30 billion watts of electricity worldwide—that’s approximately the output of 30 nuclear power plants, according to the Times.
So it’s a big deal when an influential company like Apple announces a commitment to renewables. As recently as last year, Apple was vilified in Greenpeace’s "How Clean Is Your Cloud?” report for using coal power in its data centers. The company was ranked a dismal 12th out of 14 tech companies, including Twitter and Yahoo.
Not all of Apple’s data centers will be powered by on-site renewable energy. In its Prineville, Oregon, location for example, the company says that it’s "working with two local utilities as well as a number of local renewable energy generation providers both to create Apple-owned renewable energy sources and to invest in and purchase other local renewable energy."
And Greenpeace believes that the company still has some work to do, in spite of its obvious progress. "As it keeps growing the cloud, Apple still has major roadblocks to meeting its 100% clean energy commitment in North Carolina, where renewable energy policies are under siege and electric utility Duke Energy is intent on blocking wind and solar energy from entering the grid," said Greenpeace International Senior IT Analyst Gary Cook in a statement.
Apple now runs on 75% renewable energy at all of its facilities, including corporate locations. In 2010, that number stood at just 35%. Apple may not have always been a renewable energy powerhouse, but it’s getting there.