Greenpeace recently released a report detailing how ecologically friendly different cloud service providers were in their data center operations, and Apple ranked 15.3% on their clean energy index. The index is built on criteria such as reliance on coal and nuclear energy, transparency in energy usage, and use of renewable sources. Google, by comparison, reached 39.4%, while Microsoft scored 13.9%.
Following the report, Apple has disputed Greenpeace's estimates, claiming that their data center would use 20 million watts maximum, while Greenpeace ballparked usage at 100 million watts. Apple also added that they're building a solar panel array and fuel cells powered by organic emissions, which should significantly contribute to their electrical demands at a data center in North Carolina. Despite refuting their claims, Greenpeace stuck to their guns, and even had Amazon's chief web engineer estimate that Apple's new $1 billion, 500,000 square-foot data center would use at least 78 million watts. Greenpeace says that the renewable sources being built by Apple will only handle 10% of the energy demands.
Greenpeace has never ranked Apple particularly well in their rankings of electronics manufacturers, while Apple has a put a concerted effort into promoting their eco-friendly image. Apple obviously has a vested interest in proving that they're mindful of the environment, but most of their case studies relate to manufacturing materials and battery efficiency, not necessarily power usage for iCloud data centers.
How much does eco-friendliness factor into your decision to buy electronics? I can't imagine too many people think about data center energy consumption when signing up to cloud services, but maybe we should be. Here's the full report, if you want to take a gander. Page 38 goes into the specifics of their clean energy index rating.