All the talk recently about Apple has focused on announcements of the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch. Many people had hoped that these new devices would include sapphire glass over their screens. This new material is extremely scratch-resistant and is rated as one of the hardest materials on Earth, just slightly behind diamonds.
It came as sad news, then, that the new phone’s screen will not be made out of this material. But there was some consolation in that the Apple Watch screen will use the material, as will the camera lens cover and home button on the iPhone.
The reason for sapphire glass being used so sparingly is that Apple does not yet have a stable supply of it. To this end, Apple is opening a new production facility in Mesa, Arizona. When the plant comes fully online in 2015, it will be powered by solar. While not being independent from the grid, the solar array will supply enough electricity for the entire facility when conditions are right.
Apple has drawn fire in the past for its heavy reliance on fossil fuels. It appears to have taken this criticism to heart, and has brought on Barack Obama’s former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson as Vice President of Environmental Affairs. In 2012, Apple installed the largest privately owned solar farm at its Maiden, North Carolina data center — a whopping 20 MW. It later added a second 20 MW solar farm nearby, and has purchased land for an additional 18.5 MW farm to be constructed later this year.
Apple’s environmental website now claims that 100% of its data centers are powered by renewable energy, as are 94% of its corporate facilities. This is great news, given that data centers take huge amounts of electricity to run and cool. Apple’s next step is to apparently take its retail stores off the grid. This will prove a huge challenge — but if any company can make it happen, it would appear to be Apple.