50 megawatt solar farm used to power Apple’s Mesa data center in Arizona. Photo taken from website of Apple, Inc.
As the necessity in today’s economy to generate rapid outputs of information increases, the data center industry has been growing with it.
The information age
The use of information technology is pivotal in the success of modern businesses. Data centers are exclusive facilities, a central hub if you will, that companies use to manage, organize and export information. The ability to stay constantly connected with consumers via technology has made these massive and advancing equipment sites a booming market in the U.S.
Powering these sites is where solar comes into play. Data centers are expensive and extremely energy-intensive to maintain. More and more businesses are turning to solar power to reduce technological soft costs and simultaneously, their carbon footprint.
Data powers business, and solar should power data
State and local utilities have received increasing amounts of lobbying from not only clean energy advocacy groups but businesses as well who want more renewable options in their energy selection. Specifically, data center developers who lease their space to typically larger companies, which are becoming progressively mindful of sustainability.
Jeremy Meyers, from the firm EdgeCore Internet Real Estate, was quoted in an article published by Bisnow claiming that clients of companies like his, such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft, have found most of their overall energy consumption going toward powering these facilities.
Apple recently announced that they have invested $848 million in the Arizona-based company First Solar, helping to fund their new commercial solar farm just south of San Francisco. In exchange, the tech giant will receive solar energy to support their data centers among other facilities, with 130 megawatts worth of power.
Along with this, Apple claims it is investing a near $2 billion in creating a “global command center” for its data centers, which it intends to power fully on solar power.
CEO of First Solar, Joe Kishkill, released a statement shortly after the announcement of the deal saying, “Apple is leading the way in addressing climate change by showing how large companies can serve their operations with 100 percent clean, renewable energy.”
“Over time, the renewable energy from California Flats will provide cost savings over alternative sources of energy as well as substantially lower environmental impact,” Kishkill said.
RagingWire Data Centers, a developer that also has facilities in California, plans to move in the same direction and utilize renewable energy to make their capital more efficient.
James Leach, Vice President of RagingWire, said, “Renewable energy is the next wave of efficiency with technology that’s going to hit data centers, and we’re going to be driving that innovation… It’s not about setting up your own solar farm or wind mills, it’s really about partnering with the power company to make that happen.”
Does going green save “green?”
Many are buying in, but are any of these companies receiving appreciable returns on their investments?
In 2013, Google claimed that by then they had already saved over $1 billion dollars from their data center energy efficiency investments such as solar.
Renewable energy sources like solar and wind are giving companies a PR edge, as more of the people entering the workforce today are environmentally conscious, and particularly those in higher-paying, high-tech jobs. Being able to boast a clean energy profile will help businesses recruit better employees and stay competitive in the globalizing economy.