Apple is moving slowly with its Oregon data-center plans.
Apple recently filed plans to install roughly nine diesel generators (with a total capacity of 22.5 megawatts) in its Prineville, Oregon data center, according to The Oregonian. It’s yet another sign that Apple isn’t moving aggressively when it comes to building out its new facility: by comparison, Facebook’s nearby facility features 28 3-megawatt generators for a total capacity of 84 megawatts.
Apple originally had some auspicious plans. In August 2012, its planning documents indicated a 500,000-square-foot facility with two data halls, due for construction beside the 10,000-square-foot facility already in place. In October, The Oregonian suggested that two buildings were planned, each 338,000 square feet in size. The documents also indicated that Apple could add on an additional building of the same size.
Apple’s Prineville facility is expected to be entirely green, as part of Apple’s pledge to run its data centers entirely off of renewable energy. Apple tapped into Oregon’s energy direct-purchasing program to opt out of the default grid mix, working with two local utilities as well as a number of local renewable energy generation providers to create self-owned renewable energy sources. The company has also agreed to help increase the capacity of the Prineville water system, where an underground stream has been discovered. Apple has said it will use the stream for its own water needs while contributing a portion to the city.
The Oregonian concluded that Apple’s actual usable power from the new Prineville generators will be between 11 megawatts and 17 megawatts, a small fraction of what other facilities use—it’s less than half of the outside estimates for Google’s own data center in The Dalles, for example. Apple hasn’t said how much power its Maiden, N.C. facility uses, but the company is currently building the second of two 20-MW solar photovoltaic facilities there, and claims that it produces 167 million kWh onsite.
At this stage, it’s probably too early to tell whether or not Apple’s plans are indicative of a conservative approach, or a lack of demand for its cloud services. Apple’s plans often receive more scrutiny than those of its rivals, anyway. In any case, Apple’s data-center build-out plans will undoubtedly be one of the tea leaves that Apple watchers read as they track the progress of the company.