No coal for Apple’s data centers?
Recent boast by the Apple’s CFO, actually has to do with the company’s decision to participate in Pacific Power’s Blue Sky programApple has recently announced plans to power all of its data centers — including the Prineville facility — with green energy.
What that means depends on who you ask.
According to Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s Chief Financial Officer, none of its data centers will use coal-generated power.
“We are leading the industry,” he told Bloomberg.com. “All three of our data centers will be coal free, which is an industry first for anybody of our size.”
Despite that assertion, the Prineville facility receives electricity from Pacific Power, which generates a portion of its energy from coal. Consequently, there is no way to assure that the power is coal free.
“What’s on the grid is on the grid,” said Pacific Power spokesperson Tom Gauntt.
As it turns out, the information provided on Apple’s website might paint a more accurate picture.
“At Prineville, we have access to enough local renewable energy sources to completely meet the needs of the facility,” the website stated. “To achieve that goal, we’re working with two local utilities (Pacific Power and Central Electric Co-op) as well as a number of renewable energy generation providers to purchase wind, hydro, and geothermal power – all from local sources.”
While Apple can’t avoid receiving coal-generated electricity from Pacific Power, they can purchase renewable energy from the utility. According to Gauntt, the tech giant signed up for Pacific Power’s Blue Sky renewable energy program.
According to information provided on the Pacific Power website, when a company enrolls in the program, the utility purchases certified renewable energy credits from regional renewable energy facilities on their behalf. In doing so, they can guarantee that electricity from wind, solar, and biomass facilities are delivered to the regional power system.
As long as Apple receives power from Pacific Power, their Blue Sky program provides the closest option to using coal-free power. Still, no matter what, there is no way to trace where Apple is truly receiving its energy.
“I’m buying x amount (of renewable energy), and making sure it gets on the grid,” Gauntt said. “But can you say that that electron from that windmill in Walla Walla is the one that is powering my toaster this morning? You can’t really equate those two.”
Attempts to reach Apple for comment were unsuccessful by press deadline.