Apple's Global Facilities Are Now Powered Sustainably
Emily Pollock posted on April 23, 2018 |
Drone footage of Apple Park, Apple’s new headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. The site is entirely powered by solar energy. (Image courtesy of Duncan Sinfield, from his drone tour of the Park.)
Drone footage of Apple Park, Apple’s new headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. The site is entirely powered by solar energy. (Image courtesy of Duncan Sinfield, from his drone tour of the Park)
On April 16, Apple announced that all of its data centers, corporate officers and retail stores are now powered by 100 percent renewable energy. 

While Apple's data centers have been powered by completely renewable energy since 2014, it took longer to make the shift to green power in its smaller facilities, which stretch across 43 countries and seven continents. And while the company has powered  96 percent of its facilities with renewable energy since 2016, Apple delayed its announcement until it reached a 100 percent level. “If you look at our trajectory, for the last couple of years we’ve been close to 100 percent,” Linda Jackson, Apple's VP of environment, policy, and social initiatives, recently told Fast Company. “It’s just 4 percent more, but it’s 4 percent done the right way."

Currently, the company has 25 working renewable energy projects, and 15 more projects under construction. These projects include conventional systems like photovoltaic cell and hydroelectric projects, but also newer ones such as biogas cells and energy storage. Apple Park, which opened last year to replace the company's previous California headquarters, is the flagship of this eco-friendly approach. The Park is powered by totally renewable energy, including a 17-megawatt solar array installed on the facility’s roof. During low-energy times, the building gives back energy to the public grid.  The company's other renewable projects include wind and solar projects in China, rooftop solar installations in Japan and Singapore, and clean-energy data centers in the U.S.

Of course, not every Apple location is directly connected to one of these projects. In the case of Apple locations embedded in malls or larger office centers, the company uses power from the grid, but then offsets it by producing renewable energy for the market. In exchange for the green power its facilities generate, Apple receives Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) showing that it produced more energy than it consumed, making its net energy use zero.

In last year's edition of their Guide to Greener Electronics, Greenpeace recognized Apple's renewable commitment with a B-, the highest grade given to a major electronics company. The guide lauded Apple's commitment to a sustainable supply chain, noting that the company is the only one on its list to have set a renewable energy goal for its suppliers. While Apple’s recent announcement does not include all of the suppliers or partners in its manufacturing chain, nine of the company’s partners also committed to making Apple products with renewable energy, pushing the total number of Apple partners using renewable energy to 23.

Apple has one of the industry’s most rigorous sustainability programs, second only to smaller company Fairphone. (Image courtesy of Greenpeace.)
Apple has one of the industry’s most rigorous sustainability programs, second only to smaller company Fairphone. (Image courtesy of Greenpeace.)
However, Greenpeace also noted that Apple is a particularly notorious offender when it comes to preplanned obsolescence, and criticized the company for "making [their products] difficult to service or upgrade, shortening the useful life of otherwise functional devices." With last year's revelation that the company deliberately slows down its older iPhones, Apple has taken a serious hit to its environmental credibility.

But while Apple is still lagging on the waste production front, its dedication to clean energy is above and beyond the industry standard. “We’re committed to leaving the world better than we found it," CEO Tim Cook said in a recent press release. "After years of hard work, we’re proud to have reached this significant milestone. We’re going to keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible with the materials in our products, the way we recycle them, our facilities, and our work with suppliers to establish new creative and forward-looking sources of renewable energy because we know the future depends on it.”

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