Apple has announced that all of its global facilities spanning 43 countries — from its retail outposts, offices, data centers and dazzling but problematic multibillion-dollar mothership in Cupertino, California — are now powered completely from renewable energy sources.
This includes wind and solar, as well as emerging technologies such as biogas fuel cells and micro-hydro generation systems. Additionally, the tech giant claims that nine of its manufacturing partners have pledged to run their Apple production operations with renewables, bumping the total number of clean energy-dependent suppliers up to 23.
"We’re committed to leaving the world better than we found it. After years of hard work we’re proud to have reached this significant milestone," says Apple CEO Tim Cook. "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."
Beating out Google, Amazon, Facebook, Coca-Cola, Microsoft and Disney as the world’s most valuable brand, Apple’s shift to 100 percent renewable energy is most certainly welcome news. But it's also not entirely surprising considering that just two years ago the company claimed that 93 percent of its operations were powered by fossil-fuel sources.
Apple, famously born out of a garage in suburban Silicon Valley in the late 1970s, has aggressively embraced renewable energy for some time now. In fact, all of the company’s power-hungry data centers have been reliant on clean power since 2014. What’s more, the company’s 25 operational renewable energy projects spread across the globe didn’t spring to life overnight. With 15 more major projects in the works, Apple anticipates that when all is said and done, it can claim the production of 1.4 gigawatts of clean energy across 11 countries including the United States, China, India and United Kingdom.
But to be clear, not every Apple outpost — like individual stores in shopping malls, for example — are directly powered by renewable sources. To compensate, Apple purchases renewable energy certificates, or RECs, which allow the company to claim full renewable coverage. Per Endgadet, 34 percent of Apple's renewable energy usage comes from RECs, and the rest comes directly from clean energy projects.
In a news release, Apple touts several of its existing and upcoming renewable energy projects: the purchase of a 200-megawatt wind farm in Prineville, Oregon, that’s due to come online by the end of 2019; a partnership with a Reno, Nevada-based utility that will yield four new solar products capable of yielding 320 megawatts of clean, sun-gleaned energy; rooftop solar photovoltaic projects in Singapore and Japan; sizable wind and solar projects across six Chinese provinces; and newly constructed data centers in locales ranging from Denmark to Dallas County, Iowa, that will run on renewable energy from day one.
And then, of course, there’s Apple Park, the company’s nature-infused neo-futurist digs in Cupertino that opened to about 12,000 employees last spring. (Shrouded by a lush forest that actually prompted a tree shortage in California, the so-called Apple "spaceship" landed about a mile east of the old corporate campus, also in Cupertino.)
As the largest LEED Platinum-certified office building in the world, Apple Park was built to run entirely off renewable energy sources including, most notably, a 17-megawatt rooftop solar installation perched atop the sprawling, donut-shaped structure. And when Apple Park isn’t fully consuming all of its on-site generating clean energy, that juice is fed back into the municipal power grid.
Apple deserves all the kudos thrown its way with this milestone. It’s done good. But there’s ample room for criticism as well, as the iPhone-producing behemoth basks in the glow of corporate sustainability do-goodery. Some might bemoan the company's tendency toward excessive packaging or its culture of pushing new products over simple repairs or replacements. But I think Curbed’s Alissa Walker hits the nail on the head with one single tweet, referencing the fact that the new campus has more square footage — roughly 3.5 million square feet or 80 acres — devoted to parking spaces than it does office space:
Every 3.5 million square foot parking structure... https://t.co/NDfPlY5M7s— Alissa Walker (@awalkerinLA) April 10, 2018
Apple is certainly paving the way for a better, brighter tomorrow by completely cutting ties with fossil fuel-sourced energy sources. But for a company so concerned about minimizing emissions, it could also try shedding a few hundred — or thousand — parking spaces while they're at it.