Apple Gets Another Coat of Green: From Datacenters to Dirty Water

Apple Inc.’s passion for green technology is well known. Last week, the Cupertino-based iPhone maker turned more than a few heads with its floating of Apple Energy LLC, a new company dedicated to generating and distributing clean energy generated at its solar farms.

The same week, Apple also decided that it was going to use treated wastewater to cool the servers in its datacenter in Prineville, Oregon. Technically, the water will be clean enough to drink, but instead of being sent back into the city’s drinking water system, it will be piped up to Apple’s 338,000 sq. ft. datacenter located on the bluff overlooking the city.

The Mayor of Prineville, Betty Roppe, says of the project:

“They’re doing this simply because we came up with a project that we can benefit from and they can benefit from.”

The company did not make an official statement about the amount of money it would be spending on the treated water, but the city said it would be “millions of dollars.” The city general fund has already received franchise fees to the tune of $1.4 million for Apple’s power usage at the datacenter, which heavily relies on wind for its power needs.

Apple’s environmental stewardship is something they take very seriously, and this is yet another testament to their commitment to reduce their footprint on the environment. Apple is currently the largest consumer of water in Prineville, guzzling some 27 million gallons last year. The offset from using treated water rather than “straight from the tap” will help the water balance immensely and open avenues for other companies to take the same route.

Facebook also has a datacenter facility in Prineville, which is an ideal destination because of zero sales tax on expensive servers that power these datacenters, as well as property tax breaks on other equipment. Facebook’s water usage is a relatively modest 10.5 million gallons of water per year, and the company has informally spoken about going Apple’s way and using greywater to cool its server farms. However, no formal agreement has yet been signed with the city.