Apple’s iCloud to be “insanely green”

Apple’s iCloud to be “insanely green”

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

I recently recorded a story for KQED radio about Apple’s “dirty” iCloud and the more I dug into the issue, the greener the world’s most valuable company appeared to get. By the time I’d finished researching the topic, visiting a local data center, talking with an expert in energy efficiency, and interviewing members of the public at my local Whole Foods store, Apple released a statement announcing it was going “all in.”

“By the end of 2012, we’ll meet the energy needs of our Maiden, North Carolina, data center using entirely renewable sources,” the statement read.

The data center is a LEED Platinum building (the highest rating of the US Green Building Council standards) with an impressive collection of energy efficient design features from a chilled water storage system to a white cool roof which maximizes solar reflection. The whole project looks so “insanely green” it might start to make once green-revered Google turn a shade of (envious) green.

Was it the black balloons released in Apple’s spectacular retail stores in the Bay Area and around the world? The giant iPod “squatting” outside Apple’s Headquarters in Cupertino? The supersize iPhones walking around the campus demanding Apple clean its “dirty” cloud? The slick video or the 200,000+ petitions asking Apple CEO Tim Cook to stop using dirty coal? The environmental group Greenpeace would like to think so.

But it’s likely that none of the above induced Apple to green its cloud. These decisions to install 20 MW of solar arrays (from SunPower) and the largest non-utility fuel cell installation (from Bloom Energy) were years in the making, and the Greenpeace campaign weeks old. But having Greenpeace on its case does appear to have helped Apple discover some transparency in its operations. Something for which it’s not exactly famous. And that transparency will likely spur further clean action from other IT companies.

In a detailed release, Apple explained exactly where the 60% onsite clean energy is coming from and made a public commitment to power the remainder using local and regional clean energy supplies, including NC GreenPower.

In the war of words and facts between the environmentalist group and Apple, prior to the company coming clean,  several commentators accused Greenpeace of “doing a Mike Daisey” on Apple. That is, intentionally fabricating the facts to make a stronger case against the tech giant. In the end, Greenpeace spokesperson Gary Cook told me, “We will continue our campaign to push Apple – and other IT giants like Microsoft and Amazon – to clean the cloud until Apple has policies to ensure that they will grow using exclusively clean energy.”

As for Google and the other fast growing cloud users like Amazon and Microsoft, we’ll be watching closely to see if a “greener than thou” race starts warming up. Each leapfrogging the other to out-green their competitor’s data centers. A race for the most insanely green cloud?  Bring it on.


Science Friday Host: Japan’s Nuclear Disaster – An Opportunity

Science Friday Host: Japan’s Nuclear Disaster – An Opportunity

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

Ira Flatow, the exuberant host of NPR’s Science Friday came to Silicon Valley this week. At a reception for KQED at the St. Claire Hotel Atrium in downtown San Jose, Ira took the stage for an animated conversation with Andrea Kissack, Senior Editor of KQED’s QUEST. Here are some of the highlights:

On Japan’s nuclear disaster

“This is an opportunity to build something new – infrastructure for solar thermal (power plants) for example, or wind power…we could be the Saudi Arabia of Wind. Why do you need one solution? We should look at science – see the biodiversity lesson.”

On nuclear power

“Japan was ‘prepared’ but didn’t plan for the Perfect Storm. Nature will find a way to outsmart us.”

On Global Warming

“Over 50% of incoming Republicans don’t ‘believe’ in global warming. The great majority of scientists AGREE on global warming…we don’t talk about ‘the debate’ on Science Friday. Should you bring creationists in to debate evolution? Or have a debate that the world is not flat?”

On Clean Energy and California

“We look to California as a leader in clean energy. We have to get over cheap gas and pay the real value of gas. We expect $2 a gallon while Europe is paying $10.”

How to change the energy status quo?

“If you want change, you have to DEMAND IT. Like in the 60’s. You can’t change people’s minds if they’re entrenched. With Global Warming however, change is happening and the evidence of melting ice is visible.”

On Science Education

“All kids are natural scientists – they need good teachers and mentors to nurture it.”

I was surprised to learn that Science Friday gets only 10% of its budget from NPR. The remainder it has to raise through fundraising. If you enjoy Science Friday and want to learn more about supporting it, check out this link.

For other Fresh Dialogues interviews with an education focus, click here

Here’s an interview with Ocean Scientist, Robert Ballard

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Michael Krasny: how he became a top NPR host

Michael Krasny: how he became a top NPR host

Michael Krasny on Fresh DialoguesBy Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

Download or listen to this lively Fresh Dialogues interview


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On the eve of Earth Day, I sat down with Forum host, Michael Krasny, at the KQED studios in San Francisco to discuss his journey from scrappy youth to celebrated interviewer, professor, and author. We talked about his book “Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life” and explored his views on the green movement, and why he thinks it’s smart to be green.