While Apple Inc. continues its laughable claim that its data centers are run “100-percent” on renewable energy – highlighted by a solar farm built adjacent to its server facility in Maiden, N.C. – public records show the company has received permits to install 44 pollutant-spewing diesel generators for back-up power.
Meanwhile two weeks ago the Cupertino, Calif.-based computing giant boasted far and wide that it was joining with the Conservation Fund to “protect” a “working forest” in Brunswick Co., N.C., which is on the state’s southeastern coast. So Apple asserts that it reduces pollution produced by fossil fuels, while conserving timber for future generations. Wouldn’t that be wonderful if it was true? Instead it’s more of what the environmental left likes to call “greenwashing.”
The diesel generators for the western North Carolina data center are the normal redundancy you’d expect a power-dependent corporation to install to insure continual service (such as cloud computing and iTunes) for customers. But even though the back-ups will run for only a few hours a year (unless there’s a catastrophe), the fact that they’re fossil-fueled highlights how next-to-useless the “green” alternatives are. After all, have you heard of solar- or wind-powered backup generators?
And as NLPC has reported in the past, the idea that its server farm is completely powered by its solar panels (and another adjacent fuel cell facility) is a mirage. Apple built the project in the Tar Heel State because of access to Duke Energy’s inexpensive electricity resources that are mostly fueled by nuclear, natural gas and coal. Power generated by the 100-acre solar expanse – dubbed an “iSore” by the U.K. Daily Mail – is absorbed by Duke onto its grid at great expense, while Apple accesses nonstop, round-the-clock electricity at super discount rates. Net result: The rest of Duke’s customers pay more for having to accept additional solar into the mix, thanks to Apple.
As for preserving woodlands, let’s look at the server farm in western NC before giving attention to the Brunswick Forest initiative. When the data center and solar facility was under construction in late 2011, Apple commissioned the massive clear-cutting of forest for them. But did the company chop down the timber “responsibly,” as would be defined by most liberal environmentalists?
The answer is no. As NLPC reported at the time, instead Apple burned the 170 acres of woodlands, releasing pollutants (CO2!) and particulates into the atmosphere, and destroying habitats.
“The told us they would have a fire, and only do it when the wind’s blowing away,” said Zelda Vosburgh, a resident of Maiden, to the Hickory Daily Record. “They do it 24 hours a day. The house inside smells like smoke. I don’t know if it’s hurting us, breathing it 24 hours a day. Between the smell and the smoke, it’s bad.
“It’s pushed everything out of the woods into the area here. I had a snake on my steps,” she said. “I’ve seen rabbits and squirrels everywhere.”
Only after the complaints and bad press did Apple alter its plans and switch to grinding the trees into mulch instead – which is not much of a “responsible” improvement, especially when environmentalists expect you to at least replant more trees.
Now after that slash-and-burn experience, Apple wants you to believe it is adding to its sustainability credentials with the “investment” in the southeastern North Carolina forest, with an environmental group providing legitimacy.
“Apple is clearly leading by example—one that we hope others will follow,” said Larry Selzer, president and CEO of The Conservation Fund. “The initiative announced today is precedent-setting.”
According to a report by Raleigh TV station WRAL, Apple said the forest will be “harvested sustainably,” with the Conservation Fund selling the land to commercial owners who will be bound contractually to “preserve the forest and follow environmentally sound principles for cutting and replanting trees.”
The initiative is apparently driven by Apple’s guilt over its heavy usage of paper and cardboard; thus the desire to invest in “sustainable” wood. But there was a qualifier – Apple “won’t necessarily” buy paper made from the SE NC trees, but it would produce the equivalent of a significant portion of the wood fiber in Apple’s paper and packaging that it does use.
So the concept is like carbon offsets – just like the guilt-ridden who fly on emissions-spewing jets that buy “indulgences” to alleviate their consciences, so also do users of paper made from “bad” forestry practices forgive themselves by buying up “responsible” woodlands!
It kind of makes you feel bad for that poor forest that Apple hacked and mutilated to death for that western NC data center and its (phony) power supply. It was replaced by a bunch of toxic solar panels – with no indulgences – and in reality is run by power generated by coal, natural gas and nuclear, backed up by diesel.
Paul Chesser is an associate fellow for the National Legal and Policy Center and publishes CarolinaPlottHound.com, an aggregator of North Carolina news.