New aerial images of Apple’s planned NC fuel cell, solar farms published

“Apple is building something at its Maiden, North Carolina, data center, but the uber-secretive company won’t say what it is,” Robert McMillan reports for Wired. “So Wired took to the skies to find out.”

“Overhead photos — captured last month — show Apple’s $1 billion data center and two adjacent areas where Apple has started new construction,” McMillan reports. “Rumors have suggested that Apple is building a second data center beside the first, but judging from these photos — and county building permits — it appears that this is not the case. In all likelihood, the two construction areas will house the new-age biogas fuel cell plant and the massive solar array Apple will use to help power the original facility.”

“Apple’s North Carolina permits describe a 21,030-square-foot building. That’s bigger than your typical Apple Store, but not nearly big enough for the sort of data center Apple would build. The company’s existing Maiden facility is 500,000 square feet,” McMillan reports. “More likely, the new building will house the 24-200 kilowatt fuel cell systems that could be partially operational as soon as June. This plant is noteworthy, as it will be one of the largest such plants in the U.S. and it’s the biggest such project built by a data-center operator.

More info and the aerial photos the full article here.

Related articles:
Apple’s massive fuel cell energy project to be largest in the U.S. – April 4, 2012
Apple plans USA’s largest private fuel cell energy project in North Carolina – April 1, 2012
How Apple took the lead on the environment – February 22, 2012
Apple patent application reveals next-gen fuel cell powered Macs and iOS devices – December 22, 2011
Apple’s Mothership campus solar roof will be among biggest in U.S. – December 7, 2011
Apple working with US company, Leaf Solar Power, on North Carolina solar farm – November 8, 2011
Apple patent app details highly-advanced hydrogen fuel cells to power portable devices – October 20, 2011
Apple building huge solar farm around its billion-dollar North Carolina data center – October 26, 2011


  1. “Apple bills its solar farm as a 20-megawatt array, but that represents the solar farm’s peak capacity on a sunny day. In reality, it will probably produce less power than the 4.8-megawatt biogas facility, according to Gary Cook, an IT analyst at Greenpeace.”

    NO energy source or alternative source makes them happy. They want everyone to live in a mud hut, but you can’t have a campfire for warmth or food, cause that would burn trees. I’m an environmentalist but believe these people are nuts and impossible and ALWAYS have some bone to pick with Apple.
    Guess Apple needs to burn Buffalo dung for energy. No wait, that puts smoke in the air and ruins the Ozone.

    1. Ignore Greenpeace. They are self admitted PR prostitutes who go after apple (instead of the thousands of companies that do infinitely worse) so they can get in the news.

      They are the mike daisy of Environmental groups and do a major disservice to those groups legitimately trying to help both the earth resources and the people that use them.

      1. i hate self-declared “patriots” who probably hate everything America stands for…

        Greenpeace is apolitical — they only want to protect the planet. Like Jesus.

          1. I’m liberal and I just want to live my life.

            YOU’RE the f*ckt*rd (not liberals, conservatives, communists, socialists, marxists, etc.) who hates everyone who doesn’t agree with your opinions and beliefs. I’m all for people having their own opinion except when it interferes with other people’s lives. Your asinine comment and attitude is just as bad as that of Greenpeace’s.

  2. Can anyone tell me why they don’t put the solar array on the roof of the data center?

    Why cut down more forest to place solar panels on the ground when there is all that open roof space wasted. Also, although the roof is white to reflect sun away, it is still soaking up some heat, adding heat to the datacenter that must then be cooled by air conditioners powered by the solar array next store. Why not let the solar panels keep the heat out of the datacenter and provide electricity?

    1. First of all, the sun isn’t always directly overhead. To extract the greatest amount of energy generation efficiency, the solar panels must rotate so that they face the sun at any given time of the day.

      Secondly, the solar panels need to be cleaned of grime and dirt to maintain photovoltaic efficiency and a ground array makes human access to the mirrors easier. Also data centers are high security areas with air locks and positive air pressure to prevent ingress of dust and foreign airborne material. You would need access to the roof to service the cabling and power junction and distribution boxes which means that going through the security locks will be a concern.

      Thirdly, data centers benefit from wide open flooring plans which means that supporting trusses bear most of the weight of the roof frame minimising the number of internal columns supporting the roof structure. The more weight you put on the roof the thicker the supporting struts need to be. Also because open spaces dictate that airconditioning, lighting, cabling, and electrical supply have to pass through the roof, the load bearing elements will need to be extensively stress tested to ensure that the weight of the solar panels will not cause the roof to collapse under severe storm conditions where wind shear can be a factor as the flat face of the solar panels are not aerodynamically fluent.

          1. Actually, I thought those answers made a lot of sense. If the building wasn’t designed to handle the weight, it would be easier and cheaper to build it next door rather than retrofit…

            1. “Easier and cheaper” are valid reasons. Added weight is not. Solar panels weigh very little compared to the dead and live loads normally calculated for a roof structure. It would be a rare thing indeed if allowances for additional load were not included in the structural design. I doubt Apple was so short on cash that it had to “bare bones” the building.

            2. If Apple had ever intended to put solar panels on the roof, then it would have been designed for that from the outset. This was SJ’s data center, and you can count on that. There are many factors that might influence a decision on whether or not to place solar generation facilities on the roof of a building. Apple undoubtedly considered its options and chose the one that made the most sense. That is the way that Apple handles all of its business. Why should this be any different?

              BLN, There are several types of active solar power systems. A parabolic concentrator is far less sensitive to solar incidence angle than flat photovoltaic panels. If Apple had wanted a solar power system on the roof of its data center, then it is quite feasible to place one there.

          2. Thanks for the heads up, Sun King. From now on I’ll refrain from questioning anything “Bln” says and assume both my lifetime career in the building industry and my life have been a complete waste if time 😉

            1. BLN is a “know it all” who is quite often wrong.

              BLN quote from April 04
              “At present the internal configuration of the Air prevents user accessible parts like the hard drive (SSD) or RAM which means you’re stuck with it.”

              This is wrong.

              The SSD in an Air is easily removable. It can be replaced by the end user in under 10 minutes. OWC offers 480GB SSD replacement kits.

            1. “Better than doing something to please the greedy bastards on Wall Street…”

              You are a complete and total IDIOT mikey. You loser.

              Wall Street has greedy people that are scum but they also have many great people that help keep the economy moving.

              Liberal Dirt Balls like you on the other hand, ARE ENTIRELY EVIL, HATERS, LIARS, TAKERS, AND SCUM!!!!! And hate anything that is good for the economy and capitalism. Greepeace is front and center in those departments. They are a phony, marxist, front group!


            2. Well “Manger Boy”, I hope you aren’t trying to pass yourself off as a Christian, because you apparently have no idea of the meaning. Enjoy your Easter Sunday.

            3. I hope that you enjoyed Manger Boy’s lesson of tolerance for the week. Stay tuned for more – much, much more of the same – every day at the MDN forum, where warm-hearted brotherhood, kindness, and reasoned, rational discourse are the rule, not the exception!

      1. I wish I could post a picture I took while working on a data center roof recently. The air conditioning was massive… 60-ton boxcar after 60-ton boxcar. On a space where one of these air handlers would normally be found, there were 11 or 12. A normal office building structure would never support that much machinery. And air handlers are not exactly “aerodynamically fluent” either.

        So no solar on the roof b/c of the structure? Bah.

  3. Actually, with a fuel cell system they could “run the cells backwards” to generate hydrogen with the surplus solar power. Then burn the hydrogen at night. With a setup like this they can get much more power from the solar arrays. The next step is a wind turbine farm.

    1. Why would we have to get a new enemy “DICK”!?

      Liberals are in our face destroying everything that is great from every possible direction they can.

      Liberals are liars!

      Liberals are cheaters!

      Liberals have no morals!

      Liberal-Commies are the biggest enemy to freedom, happiness, capitalism, the US, the Constitution, quality of life, standard of living, and on and on and on.

      They are the ENEMY!

      November 7 will be a landslide loss for liberal-commie-ism!

      1. How remarkably unchristian of you. Where do you store all that hate you spew under all those different names you use online? Maybe you’re building one of those massive installations in N Carolina, too?

        Seriously, whatever happened to the “loyal opposition,” the real Americans who disagreed with policy but supported the idea of one nation coming together to solve its problems?

        Guess those days are gone.

        No political party or ideological movement is free of liars, cheaters and those without morals. Not mine and CERTAINLY not yours.

        Get over your black/white view of the world. Real life simply doesn’t work that way.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.