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Originally published Friday, March 22, 2013 at 6:39 AM

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Apple: Data centers now 100% powered by renewable energy

A year ago, Apple was targeted by Greenpeace International, which ranked Apple 12th out of 14 large technology companies in a report called “How Clean Is Your Cloud?” Now Apple says it uses only renewable energy at its giant data centers.

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Apple now uses only renewable energy sources to power its data centers, the iPhone maker said in an updated report on its environmental policies.

The company’s data centers now run on solar, wind and geothermal power, instead of coal or other fossil fuels, Apple said on its website. The centers house server computers that store and distribute songs, applications and other content from services such as iTunes, iMessage and iCloud.

A year ago, Apple was targeted by Greenpeace International, which ranked Apple 12th out of 14 large technology companies in a report called “How Clean Is Your Cloud?” The environmental group, which held protests at Apple’s offices in Cupertino, Calif., charged Apple with relying on electricity from coal plants and gave Apple a grade of no better than D in the four categories it tracked.

“Increasing our use of renewable energy is our primary objective,” Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s chief financial officer, said in an interview. “We think these efforts will result in learnings that other companies and communities can benefit from as well.”

Apple’s announcement shows “real progress,” Greenpeace said, urging the company to disclose more detail on how it’s working with utilities and state governments to achieve its energy goals.

“Apple’s increased level of disclosure about its energy sources helps customers know that their iCloud will be powered by clean energy sources, not coal,” Gary Cook, an analyst at Greenpeace, wrote in an emailed statement.

Oppenheimer said a 100-acre (40-hectare) solar farm next to its largest data center, in Maiden, N.C., became fully operational in December. With the solar array and a large installation of fuel cells made by Bloom Energy Corp, which convert biogases into energy, Apple said it met a goal of generating 60 percent of the energy for the data center on-site.

“The power we are using in North Carolina is 100 percent renewable and zero percent coal,” Oppenheimer said.

Oppenheimer said Apple would double its solar capacity in Maiden after the construction of another nearby 100-acre solar farm by the end of this year.

Apple also said a data center that is under construction in Prineville, Ore., will run on local renewable energy sources such as wind, hydro, solar and geothermal power.

Apple now gets 75 percent of its total power from renewable sources, up from 35 percent a year ago. The company’s four largest office campuses, in Ireland, Germany and two in California, now use 100 percent renewable energy sources, according to Oppenheimer.

Oppenheimer declined to disclose how much Apple spent on the equipment to generate its own power. He said Apple will keep investing in green technologies and isn’t focused on earning a financial return on the investments.

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