Dam It: Apple Embraces Hydroelectric Power For Oregon Data Center

(Credit: Randy L. Rasmussen / The Oregonian)

(Credit: Randy L. Rasmussen / The Oregonian)

Remember when Tim Cook said he wanted Apple to be a “force for good” in the world, in terms of sustainability?

In keeping with Apple’s plans to use 100% renewable energy to power all of its facilities, it has recently taken over a small hydroelectric project at a Central Oregon site, near to the company’s data center in Prineville.

Since these data centers consume massive amounts of electricity (read: the equivalent of a small city), Apple has been keen to explore alternative sources of energy to keep them in clean, renewable energy.

Apple already uses “local renewable wind energy” for its Prineville data center, and has previously explored the possibility of acquiring land for a solar array, similar to the one that it operates in North Carolina — although this development suggests Apple feels it has found a better solution.

According to The Bulletin newspaper in Bend:

“The 45-Mile Hydroelectric Project, first proposed in 2010 by EBD Hydro of Bend, would be located on the North Unit Irrigation District’s main canal, 45 miles downstream from the intake and about 2 miles north of Haystack Reservoir. As originally envisioned, the project would divert water out of the canal for approximately half a mile before running it through a hydroelectric turbine and discharging it back into the canal.”

The hydroelectric project is around 20 miles northwest of Apple’s Prineville data center. Its previous owner, EBD Hydro, won $7 million in federal loan guarantees and a $1.5 million federal grant to help finance its construction. It is not currently clear whether the facility is operational at this stage.

According to reports it can generate enough electricity to power 2,000 to 3,500 homes — making up around 10% of the total energy Apple needs for its data center, although it is also reported that the 45-mile project will be offline during winter months.

Still, every little helps.

  • D R

    Not really being green, because those 2-4 thousand houses it was planning to power now have to get their power via coal.

    • Paul Lloyd Johnson

      It’s green if the project was going to stall and not happen at all.

      • D R

        is there some evidence that this is the case?

  • leftoverbacon

    Hydro power is renewable, but not sustainable. Just ask the salmon.

    • Paul Lloyd Johnson

      Would you prefer a nuclear or coal power plant?

About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, And Create More and The Apple Revolution, both published by Penguin/Random House. His tech writing has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, Techmeme, and other publications. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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