Recently, Apple’s highly secret iCloud datacenter opened his lines for the new service to store files, photos, music and other data of Apple’s clients. This 500 million dollar project is state of the art, using the newest technologies. There were already rumors, the new datacenter in North Carolina was about to be expanded with a second datacenter. Wired, a colleague tech-blog, scored exclusive areal photos from recent activities.
Rumors suggested that Apple was planning to build a second iCloud datacenter next to the first one, to support their ever-growing array of web services. But the photos and the county building permits seem to tell another story for this moment: The two construction areas next to the datacenter are likely to be used for a state-of the art biogas fuel cell plant and a huge solar energy array to power the iCloud datacenter.
Judging Apple’s Building Permits, location number two will be used to build a 21.000 square foot building. Ok, that is huge, but when you compare it with the excisting 500.000 square foot iCloud datacenter, it is very unlikely that the new construction will be used as a second datacenter.
According to Wired, it is more likely that the new building will house the 24-200 kilowatt fuel cell system. The plan to power the datacenter with a biogas installation is already confirmed by Apple. This particular plant is noteworthy, as it will be one of the largest biogas plants in the U.S. and it’s biggest biogas project built by a datacenter operator.
The second observation (see before and after photos below) is the fact that Apple had to mow down a huge number of trees to make place for its impressive 100-acre solar array.
Why Apple is Not Using Roof of iCloud Datacenter for Solar Panels?
Next question is: Why doesn’t Apple use the huge roof of the datacenter, instead of ‘wasting’ at least 100 acres of expensive space across the street?
According to a specialist, the biggest challenge is the weight: Solar panels weigh about 4-6 pounds per square feet. If you do the math for the 500.000 square feet roof of the datacenter, the roof must carry an extra weight of an impressive 2-3 million Pounds. Since a datacenter need extremely large-scale rooms, preferably without columns and other support, this is not a good combination.
Next is the efficiency: Placing solar panels outside of the datacenter allows Apple to take maximum advantage of as many conditions as possible to gain the largest energy gain. (Direction and angle of the roof might not be optimal)
Apple is working very hard to lose its bad reputation regarding building very environmental unfriendly datacenters, leaving a huge emissions footprint. So building the biogas and solar plants could be a logical step forward for Apple. [Images via Wired]