Sunday, April 24, 2011

Apple is the "Least Green" Tech Company

Apple seems to be under the spell of lots of controversies these days. It was just days ago that there were privacy concerns regarding the storing of users location data on iPhones and now we have this damning report from Greenpeace that implicates the company of being not “green” enough. If you thought we are talking about Apple’s product line up being not green enough, well, that’s not the case. This is actually about something else.

According to the report titled “How Dirty is Your Data?” Apple is still largely dependent on thermal power for most of its server sites. With US being a leader in the nuclear power field over 50% dependence on coal based power has been termed unfortunate by the report.
The report also adds that Apple’s soon to be set up data center at North Carolina would consume even more power and more than triple Apple’s current power usage. It is estimated that when the Data Center becomes operational, it will use the power that would be equivalent to the power consumption of 80,000 average U.S. homes.

If that wasn’t all, the new facility too would be powered largely by coal. The report pegs Apple’s current dependency on coal based power at 54-percent while the same for Facebook and IBM has been pegged at 53 percent and 52 percent respectively.

It is not a legal requirement in the US to disclose the power usage by large corporations – at the same time, companies are wary of making their energy consumption reports public either. There is no data on the energy consumption required to power services like Gmail which are essentially in the cloud.

It is estimated that as the demand for services like these grow, electricity consumption by Data Centers which is currently pegged at 1.5 to 2 percent of world electricity consumption, will grow to four times in the next decade. In the US, 3% of all the electricity produced is already being consumed by data centers.


  1. Ooooh, Apple uses a couple of percent more coal power than Facebook or IBM. That seals the deal.

    Greenpeace calls Apple out because it insures headlines. It's just that simple.

    If the guy running this blog sincerely cared about the wasteful consumption of energy by data centers, he'd set an example and do the right thing by taking his own servers down.

  2. The problem with that is this is a Google Blog site. I have no control if this server is running or not and, besides, it is probably a virtual server anyway. That SAVES energy.

  3. Nice rationalization. So, applying that logic, if Apple virtualizes the servers at it new data center, it could SAVE energy too and would no longer be one of the bad guys?

    Does anyone even know what measures Apple will be taking to run the facility efficiently, or are we jumping to FUD-clusions as usual?

  4. Actuallly, yes. I work in IT and over the past couple of years we virtualized about 30 servers with plans to do more if we can. It has saved us space (several server sacks), electric and heat. Because less heat was generated we were able to reduce our AC requirements as well. I didn't do the before and after surveys but I know the numbers were impressive. Imagine if a huge company like Apple did that. I doubt they will because it makes sense.

    No FUD here, just stating facts.

  5. I meant (several server RACKS) not sacks... :P

  6. Again I ask, based on what little we know, is there any evidence that Apple (who after all has to pay for its power usage) isn't also going to virtualize its servers? I just think it is premature to make accusations.

    The Greenpeace report seems mainly concerned with the primary source of power in North Carolina being coal. Why is this Apple's fault? The state is actively courting tech companies with tax incentives in order to bring needed jobs to that area. Everything involves tradeoffs. Apple can't right all the wrongs in this world. They would almost certainly go out of business or court shareholder revolt if they tried to take a utopian principled stand on every issue.

  7. Apple were targeted on this on the day of their earnings release because Greenpeace knew they would get some mileage out of it. Like most of Greenpeace's arguments it's heavy on noise and not so good on actual facts.

    Greenpeace have cried "wolf" way too often for this to bear too much looking into it.

    Greenpeace shouts "Apple" and they get press hits. Greenpeace are also more favorable to companies that pay them money than companies like Apple who keep their cards close to the chest...

    For example this place isn't even open yet and Greenpeace are already calling Apple on their power usage. Shouldn't Apple actually turn the place on first before getting called on it? The guy they've just employed from Microsoft has been connected with some of the greenest server farms on the planet so I don't think this is going to be a big a news item as the Greenpeace publicists hope.

  8. It's funny how the only "positive" news I hear about Apple is about the money they make. Everything else is bad press. Bad products, bad for the environment, bad customer service, high prices. They should make a selfless move and get some good press for once. (Like THAT would ever happen)

  9. Anonymous apparently gets his Apple news here. :)

  10. "It's funny how the only "positive" news I hear about Apple is about the money they make."
    Really? How's that Android phone working out for you because if the iPhone hadn't dropped you'd be using something that looks and feels like a Blackberry...

    "Everything else is bad press."
    As Brett pointed out, you must only get your news from here. There is plenty of positive Apple news - I assume that the positive news was the only reason this site exists as it gives the naysayers somewhere to congregate.

    "Bad products"
    Define Bad... 180 million people think iOS devices are pretty good. So perhaps you should take your blinkers off.

    "bad for the environment"
    Only because Apple refuses to give Greenpeace their backhanders. Greenpeace have gone from being an environmental group to being extortionists.

    "bad customer service"
    You cannot be serious? There are plenty of actual surveys that seriously disagree with you on that one.

    "high prices."
    Yes which is why the named tablet competitors can't deliver a comparative product that can compete on price... High prices are such an old lie to accuse Apple of.

    "They should make a selfless move and get some good press for once. (Like THAT would ever happen)"
    WTF? Have you ignored all the stuff about how well the tablet market is doing? Clue: There is no "tablet market" there is only the iPad shipping in significant volumes. Samsung and Motorola, both who "claimed" they shipped significant units of their tablets have had to back peddle furiously since the iPad 2 launch.

  11. I really love how riled-up you Apple lap-dogs get. My Android phone works great thank you, no thanks to Apple. There were smart phones before the iPhone and Google was working on Android before the iPhone was released. I've read on the Apple forums where most of the posters are pissed because they need the forums because CS couldn't help them. Plus I know people that were screwed in one way or another by a genius or CS rep. Seriously, take off your blinders (not your "blinkers" btw).

    And, hey Brett, you said in an earlier comment that bashing Apple was a good thing because it helps keep them in the minority (or something like that). Come on, how about a little bashing from you? Or were you just blowing smoke?

  12. @Anonymous

    Actually, as RattyUK pointed out, your Android phone owes a debt to Apple. Prior to the iPhone announcement, Android was going to be a Blackberry clone. The iPhone forced them to go back to the drawing board. Look it up. Just as the Macintosh did for PCs by introducing, refining, and legitimizing GUI for the masses, the iPhone has redefined the look and feel of smart phones going forward as a multi-touch finger-based GUI.

    I'll certainly bash Apple when its due. You want "bashing". Ok.

    I think The iPhone and IPad should have user-upgradable memory via an SD slot. Changing the memory configuration would almost certainly require total re-syncing with the main hub computer, both before and after SD card replacement, but since this is not something one would do often, I could live with that. I'd be ok with the SD slot not being treated as runtime mountable/removable mass storage, as I can see how that could open a can of worms.

    Here's a problem I've personally experienced with the proximity detector on my iPhone 4. On a few occasions, the touchscreen remained enabled while I held the phone to my ear and muting was activated inadvertently. It's an annoyance but not a deal breaker.

    I can think of several other instances where I feel Apple missed the mark, but none of them rise to the level where I feel that the company is evil or deserving of hatred. In my opinion, much of the criticism directed at Apple is coming from ignorance or fear. The fear is often from those with a vested interest in holding back Apple in order to maintain the status quo.

    Go to any forum and you will find pissed people. That's where you would expect to find them. Apple isn't perfect. A small percentage of people will have a bad support experience. Every company and platform has its share of customers with problems. Apple is no worse than others (and, if surveys are to be believed, they are better). The vast majority of Apple users have no need for a forum.

    While I don't like to see Apple bashed unfairly, neither do I want to see them completely come to dominate the tech landscape, particularly to the point at which malware authors take notice. I don't think that will happen, because Apple will never compete on the really low end, and they will always leave the niche markets alone. (I consider the uber-geek, spec-obsessed, open source crowd to be a niche.) Competition is good, and it is important that people can continue get the features and form factors they need.

  13. "I think The iPhone and IPad should have user-upgradable memory via an SD slot."

    Like the Xoom? Except that bit doesn't work yet.

  14. I'm not sure on how the SD slot on a Xoom was supposed to work. I do recognize that supporting hot swappable memory can present a host of issues that complicate life for programs and users, and that is not what I would ask for at this point.

    If not using an SD card then I'd like to see some other way to allow end user access to memory expansion.. I think it's silly to hardwire final memory capacity into a device. I'd like the ability to buy a base model, and then when my needs increase (and my budget allows) to extend the useful life of the device by swapping in larger capacity memory chip.

    I suppose Apple's objection is that it would require adding a socket and access slot or removable panel which would possibly increase weight, thickness, and cost, while weakening the case and adding visual clutter. It might also open up the possibility of incompatibility with third party memory and add to support cost. All of these things go against Apple's emphasis on total control and simplicity. Still, I like to see them support this.

  15. "I'm not sure on how the SD slot on a Xoom was supposed to work."

    Oh, I don't know. Put in a card and be able to read and write to it? Not yet though...

  16. At least the option is there, all they have to do is turn it on in the software. Can't say that about Apple. I would rather have it there for when it's ready so I can take advantage of the memory expansion.

  17. @Brett "At least the option is there"
    Not until it actually works, now?

    "all they have to do is turn it on in the software."
    Yup that is super easy - which is why it hasn't been done yet?

    "Can't say that about Apple"
    Except you can. It's a 29 buck add-on. The camera connection kit adds the same functionality - except it actually worked with SD cards when the product was launched. Yes it is an additional spend but that works out fairer for those who don't actually require it or need it.

    "so I can take advantage of the memory expansion."
    Let's see what it does when it is actually activated shall we? At the moment it is all wishes and promises.

  18. 1. I don't know why is wasn't done yet, that does suck, I admit.

    2. At least for the Xoom it will be FREE. Do they really need to nickle and dime people after they already charge a premium price for their product?

    3. I thought Apple was all about ease of use. Brett was saying that the reason Apple doesn't include extra ports is because options can confuse some people. I can easily see an "optional kit" where you have to plug in an additional adapter throwing some people that aren't "tech savvy". Having it built in would most certainly be easier. Plus it's one more thing to lose so you have to buy another one from Apple.

    You cannot argue that an additional $29 add-on is better than a built in port. (Granted, when they turn it on for free.)

  19. I believe Apple's camera connection kit (which includes an SD card reader) only claims to allow image import, it is NOT a general purpose memory expansion or mass storage solution.

    IOS deliberately hides the file system from the user. I believe there are significant technical and UI issues justifying this limitation. Perhaps these same issues are causing the delay in Xoom support for its SD slot.

  20. Not the greenest. "SO FU*KING WHAT?" {James Hetfield"

  21. Wow, you and James are complete shitheads.

  22. According to Apple's Facilities Report 2012 Environmental Update ...

    "The 2011 commissioning of our new data center in Maiden, North Carolina, demonstrates our commitment to reduce the environmental impact of our facilities through energy- efficient, green building design. The facility is exceptionally energy efficient and has earned the coveted LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. We know of no other data center of comparable size that has achieved this level of LEED certification.

    The energy-efficient design elements of the Maiden facility include:
    • A chilled water storage system to improve chiller efficiency by transferring 10,400 kWh of electricity consumption from peak to off-peak hours each day.
    • Use of “free” outside air cooling through a waterside economizer operation during night and cool-weather hours, which, along with water storage, allows the chillers to be turned off more than 75 percent of the time.
    • Extreme precision in managing cooling distribution for cold-air containment pods, with variable-speed fans controlled to exactly match air flow to server requirements from moment to moment.
    • Power distributed at higher voltages, which increases efficiency by reducing power loss.
    • White cool-roof design to provide maximum solar reflectivity.
    • High-efficiency LED lighting combined with motion sensors.
    • Real-time power monitoring and analytics during operations.
    • Construction processes that utilized 14 percent recycled materials, diverted 93 percent of construction waste from landfills, and sourced 41 percent of purchased materials within 500 miles of the site.
    To meet the energy needs of the Maiden facility with high-percentage renewable energy mix, we have embarked on an industry-leading renewable energy program. Major leaps toward this goal are under way:
    • Apple is building the nation’s largest end user–owned, onsite solar array on the land surrounding the data center. When completed, this 100-acre, 20-megawatt facility will supply 42 million kWh of clean, renewable energy annually.
    • Apple is building a fuel cell installation that, when online later in 2012, will be the largest non-utility fuel cell installation operating anywhere in the country. This 5-megawatt facility, located directly adjacent to the data center, will be powered by 100 percent biogas, and provide more than 40 million kWh of 24x7 baseload renewable energy annually.

  23. Looks like their solar plant is almost finished. Picture here: