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You are here: MacNN Forums > News > Mac News > Apple buys hydroelectric facility to help power Prineville data center

Apple buys hydroelectric facility to help power Prineville data center
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MacNN Staff
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Apr 12, 2014, 10:18 PM
 
In order to help power its Prineville, Oregon data center with renewable energy as promised, Apple has taken over a small hydroelectric project located about two miles north of the Haystack Reservoir and 45 miles downstream from the intake. It is unclear how far the project had progressed before Apple acquired it, but original plans called for it generate 3-5 megawatts of energy on a seasonal basis, closing in the winter when the irrigation canal it relies on is shut.

Example of small hydroelectric generating station
Example of small hydroelectric generating station


Apple had already said during the approvals process for the Prineville center that it would primarily be powered by wind energy purchased from local utilities, and that it planned to also employ solar arrays (and has looked into nearby land for that purpose) and "micro-hydro power" as well. The hydroelectric project was planned to divert water out of the irrigation canal for approximately half a mile, run it through a hydroelectric turbine, then discharge it back into the canal.

The amount of power the turbine would generate was small compared to Apple's requirements: only enough to power 2,100 to 2,500 homes by most estimates. A typical data center can use anywhere up to 30 megawatts of power on an annual basis. The original creator of the project EBD Hydro, transferred the property to Apple in November, new filings show.

In 2011, EBD received a $7.2 million federal loan guarantee for the project and had anticipated that construction would begin at the end of that year. While the current state of facilities isn't know, it appears the project was not yet online. Apple's need for power will grow in the future, as filings have shown that the company is planning to expand the Prineville center, possibly doubling the number of structures. At present it has two 338,000 square foot buildings there.
     
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Apr 13, 2014, 12:05 PM
 
I don't know a lot about power generation, so curious as to what readers think: what is the business benefit / need for Apple to control their electric supply? Obviously, they can manage their own supply of power, but are their shortages there, or no public utility able to fulfill their needs?
     
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Apr 13, 2014, 03:43 PM
 
Since Apple has a literal crap-ton of money, it makes sense in the long run to own their own power generation facilities. That way, they don't pay any markup (or extremely little) at all to an energy company on the power they use.

Power is one of the most costly consumables. Apple is betting on the long-term and will pay significantly less than those that choose to "lease" their power and pay an energy company month after month what with their hybrid model of owning their own power-generation stations (hydroelectric, solar, etc.) and also purchasing energy the traditional way, through a local power company.
     
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Apr 14, 2014, 05:01 AM
 
As DCQ notes, power is the biggest ongoing expense of a data centre. This individual action will not lower their bills that much, but combined with solar and other generation they control, it has the potential to very dramatically lower the cost of running the facility.
_chas_
     
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Apr 14, 2014, 08:04 AM
 
haha, and I was thinking it was something like the Hoover Dam
     
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Apr 14, 2014, 08:14 AM
 
A couple more windmills and Apple is all set.
     
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Apr 14, 2014, 12:45 PM
 
Hydroelectric is a pretty amazingly efficient way to produce power. I'm always a bit dumbfounded as to why the US hasn't utilized it more.
_chas_
     
   
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