(Oregonian (Portland, OR) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) April 12--Apple has taken over a small hydroelectric project at a Central Oregon site near the company's new data center in Prineville.
Big data centers like the one Apple has just opened in Prineville use huge volumes of electricity -- as much as a small city -- to power thousands of computers that hold photos, music and all manner of other digital information.
Apple, like other leading data center operators, says it plans to power its data centers entirely with renewable energy. Currently, Apple says it buys "local renewable wind energy" for its Prineville facility. The company has explored the possibility of acquiring land for a huge solar array, like one it operates in North Carolina, but has indicated it may pursue other options instead.
The Bulletin newspaper in Bend first reported Apple's interest in the 45-Mile Hydroelectric Project, which is near Haystack Reservoir, about 20 miles northwest of Prineville. It's in a Jefferson County irrigation canal, screened from fish runs.
The project's previous owner, EBD Hydro, won $7 million in federal loan guarantees and a $1.5 million federal grant to help finance its construction. The company had planned to start work late in 2011; it's not clear if the facility is operating yet -- Apple declined comment, and EBD did not immediately responded to inquiries on the deal.
Prior proposals had described the project as generating 3 to 5 megawatts. That's enough to power roughly 2,000 to 3,500 homes, but big data centers can exceed 30 megawatts -- and really large complexes require significantly more than that.
Additionally, plans called for taking the 45-mile project offline when the irrigation canal is shut in the winter months. So Apple's hydro deal would apparently provide a tiny portion of the company's electricity requirements.
Many of the biggest Internet companies operate data centers in Oregon, including Facebook, Amazon and Google. They're drawn in part by the region's relatively low power prices, and to a much greater extent by tax exemptions on their expensive computers. A big data center can cost $1 billion or more to equip.
-- Mike Rogoway; twitter: @rogoway; 503-294-7699
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