In 2017, Apple expects to have opened and operational 2 new green data centers, worth over €1.7 billion. Apple may have several different motives for building these data centers, but one thing is for sure: they will be green and operate off 100% renewable energy. They will serve as the centers for Apple services including iMessage, iTunes, and Siri.
The two facilities will be located in Atherny in Western Ireland, and in the Central Denmark city Viborg. Each offers different advantages to their respective communities, outside of simple job creation. In Ireland, Apple plans to have educational sites compliment the data center, in addition to a promise to replant native trees around the site. In Viborg, however, the new site will help heat homes in the area using the excess heat produced at the data center. In effect, both centers offer secondary green advantages as well.
The centers are definitely a good initiative for environmental purposes, however they might also be an attempt for Apple to continue to build its image in Europe. It is undergoing some hostilities over its tax arrangements. For example, in Ireland, it is a widely known that a loophole in Irish law allows companies to pay well under the 12.5% European corporation tax rate. Apple was accused by the US of paying under 2%. I find Ireland a very interesting choice for a facility if this is the case.
However, to Apple’s credit, the data facilities should help Apple defend user data privacy. With the facilities off US soil, European clients could feel more comfort outside the reach of the NSA. Even the European Commission’s Justice Unit is hailing the move in saying that it’s proof that Europe can be a trust center for big data. The announcement comes at the same time as Apple has been highlighting its recent investment in Europe, such as the €7.8 billion spent in 2014 alone, not to mention the 18,300 people it employs across 19 countries. Apple also is a source of new jobs too, having created about 2,000 just in the past year.
In effect, Apple seems to be growing its reach in Europe, and is following along its green mission in the process. This is certainly something environmentalists and green activists can be happy about. Apple already powers all of its US data facilities with renewable energy, so at least while it’s growing, Apple fans can be content that it’s a green reach that is growing in Europe.