Apple is reportedly increasing their investment in renewable energy, according to The Charlotte Observer. Apple was recently issued the necessary permits to prepare a site for a large solar farm on a 171 acre plot of vacant land near their data center in Maiden, North Carolina, although the company did not respond to an email from The Observer.
The data center, which is used for Apple's new iCloud service, has previously been criticized for its reliance on cheap, coal and nuclear-generated power.
Wired's Eric Smalley argues that recent criticism of Apple's environmental impact "raises the possibility that the solar plant is part of a greenwashing campaign aimed at blunting criticism from the environmental movement." But if the entire site is developed, it "could generate 25 to 35 megawatts of power, depending on the solar technology used."
Regardless of Apple's motives, the North Carolina solar farm is not the company's first foray into renewable energy. According to Apple's Facilities Report, the company's facilities in Cork, Ireland, Elk Grove, California and Austin, Texas are all fully powered by renewable energy. Apple claims that they avoided releasing 27.5 million kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents in fiscal year 2010 by utilizing renewable energy sources.
According to The Charlotte Observer, Apple has been quite secretive about their solar plans. The permit that Apple filed is solely for permission to reshape the lot's terrain and only discusses erosion control measures during construction and plans for gravel access roads. More information is expected when Apple applies for a building permit.
AppleInsider has images of Apple's permit and reports that land clearing has already begun and is "bothering the neighbors."
Earlier this year, Apple was criticized in China for reportedly "turning a blind eye as its suppliers pollute the country."