Greenpeace slams Apple over “19th-century coal energy”, praises Google

Non-governmental environmental organization Greenpeace has taken issue with Apple’s $1 billion iCloud data center in North Carolina, accusing the Cupertino company of running a facility that operates on “dirty, 19th-century coal energy”.

In addition, Greenpeace wrote in its latest report, Microsoft and Amazon are also running server farms that operate on dirty energy.

The slap in Apple’s face came just as we learned the company is building the nation’s largest end-user owned solar energy farm to partially power the iCloud data center.

The organization wrote in its latest environmental report titled “How Clean is Your Cloud” that Silicon Valley giants such as Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and others “are powering their growing 21st-century clouds with dirty, 19th-century coal energy”.

As for Apple, Greenpeace wrote:

If Apple is really interested in having the “high percentage” of renewable energy it claims to want for the iCloud, it will have to look beyond the initial steps for on-site generation and use its tremendous cash reserves to invest in or purchase renewable energy and also to put pressure on Duke Energy to to provide cleaner energy.

The organization is urging folks to push companies into tweaking their energy strategies, especially when it comes to powering huge data centers.

Apple’s green efforts are well documented on their website, but the company is constantly under a barrage of criticism from consumer watchdogs and environmental organization, partly because of its prominence and stature.

Here’s a quick aerial video depicting Apple’s 500,000 square feet iCloud server farm in North Carolina and the adjacent 20MW solar farm.


Although the iPhone is not yet predominantly green, Apple’s made big strides to reduce its carbon footprint and remove toxic materials from the manufacturing process.

In the case of the iPhone, Apple is employing recyclable, Arsenic-free display glass and aluminum enclosure. The handset – as well as other Apple gadgets – also uses Polyvinyl chloride-free materials, mercury-free LCD displays and bromine-free printed circuit boards.

Apple’s environmental consciousness extends to the packaging which is made of post-consumer recycled fibreboard and bio-based materials.

Additionally, the iPhone maker is allegedly exploring the use of a brand new breakthrough battery design from NEC called Organic Radical Battery.

The technology is said to be completely eco-friendly, unlike standard lithium-polymer batteries that contain some harmful elements.

A section of the Apple website is entirely devoted to the company’s Environmental Footprint.

Interesting enough, Google’s energy reduction plan is praised in the 50-page Greenpeace report. According to Greenpeace, Google’s strategy has apparently led to half the energy use in their data centers compared to the industry standard.

Here’s an excerpt from the report:

Google has been the most open in the industry about the importance of increasing not only energy efficiency within the sector, but also the need to move our energy sources to renewable energy… Google has a comprehensive energy reduction plan that has resulted in its data centers using half the energy of the industry standard… Google’s commitment to using renewable energy as much as possible has set the bar for the industry.

Greenpeace is probably right.

Apple’s only begun dipping their toes into the cloud, unlike Google which has the most data centers in the world and has been running them for well over a decade.

For example, Google’s data center in Finland uses seawater for cooling.

What’s more, the company is actually designing their own cooling systems for data centers.

Have a look at the clip below depicting clever solutions Google came up with for the Hamina, Finland server farm.


The search firm has also invested $55 million into Mojave Desert Windfarms.

Would you say that Greenpeace’s assessment of Apple’s and Google’s clean energy strides is a fair one?

Honestly, is iCloud really powered by “19th-century coal energy”?