The approved lot is 171 acres of vacant land on Startown Road that Apple has acquired. Local rumors had initially suggested that the site would be used for office space.
According to the report, engineering plans have yet to show details about the solar farm, as the permit is simply an early erosion control permit. County engineer Toni Norton said more information about Apple's plans would come when the company applies for a building permit.
The plans do, however, refer to the undertaking as "Project Dolphin Solar Farm A Expanded." It had previously been revealed that the data center was codenamed "Project Dolphin."
In April, environmental activist group Greenpeace criticized Apple for relying on "dirty" energy for its data center. The group accused the company of locating its center in an area with one of the dirtiest electrical grids in the country. According to local reports, Apple's power supplier for the center is Duke Energy, which uses mostly coal and nuclear plants, though it does have solar arrays setup in the county.
Though Apple's plans for a solar farm could create goodwill among environmental groups, the company is currently upsetting residents with preparations for it. Hickory Record reports that smoke from the process of clearing the lot is bothering the neighbors.
âThe [sic] told us they would have a fire, and only do it when the windâs blowing away,â said Zelda Vosburgh. âThey do it 24 hours a day. The house inside smells like smoke. I donât know if itâs hurting us, breathing it 24 hours a day. Between the smell and the smoke, itâs bad.â
Vosburgh also said the smoke has increased wildlife activity around her house.
"Itâs pushed everything out of the woods into the area here, I had a snake on my steps,â she said. âIâve seen rabbits and squirrels everywhere.â
According to her, Apple also burned property when it began construction of the data center two years ago.
Rumors have also swirled that Apple plans to build a second data center next to the first. The current server farm already covers 500,000 square feet, an area five times larger than that of its data center in Newark, Calif.
Apple prides itself on using sustainable energy for its facilities, which include data centers. According to the company's website, just 2 percent of Apple's energy footprint comes from its facilities around the world. Currently, facilities in Austin, Texas; Sacramento, California; and Cork, Ireland use 100 percent renewable energy, saving as much as 21,500 metric tons of CO2e emissions.