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Apple issues annual environmental report, touts renewable energy use

Dan Moren | March 22, 2013
Explains how it's improved on its goal vis-a-vis the environment

While technological progress and the environment often seem to be at odds, many tech companies are working hard to lessen the impact their businesses have on the planet. Over the last several years, Apple has released an annual progress report about its environmental status, and this year is no different. On Thursday, the company updated its Apple and the Environment pages with information about the year gone by, and how it's improved on its goals vis-a-vis the environment.

Green energy

Perhaps the most prominent piece of news from the update is that Apple's data centers are now powered entirely by renewable energy sources--specifically, solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal. The company currently maintains three data centers in Prineville, Oregon; Newark, California; and Maiden, North Carolina. A fourth is planned for Reno, Nevada. The Maiden data center last year saw the completion of the country's largest end user-owned, onsite solar array, producing 42 million kWh of green power; a second array is scheduled to be built nearby this year.

Overall, 75 percent of the energy used by the company's corporate facilities around the world is now renewable--up from a mere 35 percent in 2010. Part of those improvements are the result of Apple reducing its energy use by 30 percent, even as the occupancy of its facilities have increased by more than 12 percent. The company's goal is to achieve a "net zero" efficiency, using entirely renewable energy and generating zero emissions.

Currently, several of the company's corporate facilities are entirely powered by renewable energy, including its locations in Austin, Texas; Elk Grove, California; Cork, Ireland; Munich Germany; and its corporate headquarters in Cupertino. The company also says that most of its facilities in Australia are also 100 percent renewable-energy-powered as well.

That energy is acquired via a variety of methods, including the company generating its own where feasible. In many cases, power is purchased through the local grid; in other locations, where that isn't an option, the company instead buys Renewable Energy Credits. Apple also says that it's very thorough about the partners it works with; it "hand-picks" the facilities from which it gets its power, and tends to work with newer projects that provide a better return.

Carbon footprint

Apple estimates that in 2012 it was responsible for 30.9 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Only 2 percent, according to Apple, was directly produced by its facilities, while 98 percent of the emissions are the result of manufacturing, transportation, use, and recycling of the company's products.

It's worth noting that Apple's greenhouse gas emissions in 2012 were actually up slightly over 2011. The company says, though, that its greenhouse gas emissions per dollar of revenue have decreased by 21.5 percent since 2008, suggesting that even as Apple produces more goods, it's still managing to mostly lower its emissions.


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