Apple have been hit this week with a number of protests outside their stores worldwide organised by environmentalist group Greenpeace, as they ‘take a stand’ against the American technology company’s data centre’s heavy dependence on coal power.
With official Apple Stores in San Francisco, New York (both USA), Toronto (Canada), and London (England), against the most notable hit by the activists with their bizarre methods of protesting, Apple have taken the time to insist that they are not causing as many problems as they are made out to.
Greenpeace’s argument is that coal is used as a main fuel for Apple’s data centres at a rate of 55% of all consumption by them, with the protests mainly consisting of campaigners applying leaflets to Apple Store windows, and talking to staff and customers about the company’s energy usage habits, while more bizarre forms of displaying their displeasure with Apple included a mime window-cleaner (without a clearly-defined purpose) inside the flagship San Francisco store, and the marching of ‘black cloud’ balloons through various outlets.
Jim Footner, a ‘senior energy campaigner’ at Greenpeace, said of the problems, and how they could affect Apple: “Apple is a worldwide brand that is renowned for its innovative products that have set the agenda for computers and telecommunications in recent decades, with an immensely loyal customer base. Many of their customers will be surprised and shocked that Apple is using coal to power the iCloud. The irony is that Apple has shown that it can be environmentally responsible – their European HQ is exclusively powered by renewable energy. So if they can run their HQ with clean power then they can do it for customers’ iClouds. If they fail to change course the clean image that Apple has worked so hard to develop over many years will be destroyed.”
Apple spokesperson Kristin Huguet has recently stated in response to the Greenpeace claims of their company’s more efficient plans for new locations in US states: “Our data centre in North Carolina will draw about 20 megawatts at full capacity, and we are on track to supply more than 60 percent of that power on-site from renewable sources including a solar farm and fuel cell installation, which will each be the largest of their kind in the country. We believe this industry-leading project will make Maiden the greenest data centre ever built, and it will be joined next year by our new facility in Oregon running on 100 percent renewable energy.”
Greenpeace-produced statistics claim that if it was included on a list of the most energy-consuming nations in the world, the usage from the global running of the iCloud service would place 5th on its own, with estimations by Greenpeace that the output levels from Apple will have trebled in the next 8 years.
The reports also held up mainly internet-only services such as Facebook, Google, Yahoo for their well-managed energy efficiency levels, with Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and companies specialising in cloud services generally perceived on the lower end of the scales. While Greenpeace protesters are sometimes seen as over-the-top in their claims and protests, could the energy used to run Apple’s online storage operations really be a harm to Mother Earth?