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Apple's iCloud data center to use 100% renewable energy by end of year

Apple's main iCloud data center in Maiden, N.C., will be powered entirely by renewable energy by the end of this year with the construction of two solar array installations.

The feat will be accomplished with the construction of both new solar arrays around the existing North Carolina facility, Reuters reported on Thursday. Together, they will supply 84 million kilowatt-hours of energy per year.

The new solar installations will also reportedly rely on high-energy cells and an advanced solar tracking system. The announcement comes as Apple has been under fire from Greenpeace, which has called on Apple to build a "clean" iCloud rather than relying on coal-powered electricity.

Greenpeace's "How Clean is Your Cloud?" report, issued in April, accused Apple of lagging behind other technology companies like Facebook and Google in utilizing environmentally friendly power for its cloud-based services. Apple, however, rejected the estimates in Greenpeace's study, and provided its own figures, which claimed that renewable energy would provide more than 50 percent of the center's power needs than was originally projected.

That will all change with Apple's announcement on Thursday, however, as the data center will rely on entirely "green" energy by the end of 2012. Until then, the non-solar capacity will come from coal-fired power plants from Duke Energy.

The solar plants will also be supported by a 5-megawatt fuel cell installation that will open later this year. Apple has said it will be the largest non-utility fuel cell installation operating anywhere in the country, and will be powered by 100 percent biogas.

Plans first surfaced last October that Apple was planning to build a solar farm opposite its North Carolina data center. The solar array will exist on 171 acres of vacant land on Startown Road that was acquired by Apple.

Apple first announced its plans to build the server farm in Maiden, N.C. in July 2009. The $1 billion data center opened last spring and currently supports iTunes and iCloud services.