Tim Cook says Apple’s two data centres, in Ireland and Denmark, will be among the largest in the world and have most advanced green building designs
Apple has announced £1.25bn plans to build two data centres in Europe powered entirely on renewable energy.
Chief executive Tim Cook said the developments in Galway, Ireland and Jutland in Denmark would be Apple’s largest-ever European project and would “introduce some of our most advanced green building designs”. At 120,000 sq m each, the centres will be among the largest in the world.
Apple offsets its data centres’ power use by investing in renewable energy capacity. At the Denmark site, some generation will be done on site. But in Ireland the offsetting will take the form of new projects in other parts of the country.
The tech sector has come under pressure in recent years to account for the environmental impact of its energy use. Apple’s commitment to renewable energy is an attempt to rehabilitate its image after being named the “least green” tech company by Greenpeace in 2011 – mainly because of its heavy reliance (54.5%) on coal power for its data centres.
Last year, Greenpeace praised Apple’s rapid turnaround. The company says its data centre power is now 100% from renewable sources.
Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice-president of environmental initiatives said: “We’re excited to spur green industry growth in Ireland and Denmark and develop energy systems that take advantage of their strong wind resources. Our commitment to environmental responsibility is good for the planet, good for our business and good for the European economy.”
The initiative will represent a significant private investment in the European renewable sector. One-third of Denmark’s and 16% of Ireland’s electricity comes from wind. Mogens Jensen, Denmark’s minister for trade and development cooperation said Apple’s choice of Denmark confirmed the country’s “position as a world leader within green solutions and renewable energy technology”.
The centre in Jutland will also capture heat from its servers and transfer it into nearby homes.
The chief executive of the Irish Wind Energy Association Kenneth Matthews said the Galway development was the first of a number announcements expected for Ireland in the coming months. He said there could be “several hundred megawatts” of new renewable capacity funded by a coming boom in Irish data centres.
Apple has not specified the type of renewable energy it will use in the centres. However Matthews said: “We really expect it to be onshore wind” and this would represent “a really great vote of confidence in the electricity system” in Ireland. The vast majority of Irish renewable power comes from onshore wind, a sector from which the Tories in the UK have promised to slash subsidies.
Apple would not release details on the energy load of its new European projects, so it is not clear how much new capacity the new projects will add to either country’s renewable sector. Apple’s massive Maiden data centre in North Carolina has a 40 MW solar farm attached to it, slightly smaller than the UK’s largest solar farm. The centres will begin operating in 2017.