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Apple to open US$2b solar-powered Arizona data centre

[SAN FRANCISCO] Apple unveiled plans Monday to pump US$2 billion over the coming decade into a data center "global command" facility in the southwest state of Arizona.

The project represents one of the largest investments ever by the maker of the iPhone, iPod, iPad and Macintosh computer.

"We're proud to continue investing in the US with a new data center in Arizona, which will serve as a command center for our global networks," Apple said in an email to AFP.

"Like all Apple data centres, it will be powered by 100 per cent renewable energy, much of which will come from a new local solar farm." The facility with some 120,000 square meters (1.3 million square feet) had been the planned site of a plant to produce sapphire glass screens in a collaboration with GT Advance Technologies.

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Sapphire touch screens are a very tough synthetic replacement for the glass currently used on many Apple mobile devices, and are already used in a limited way for particularly sensitive parts of devices.

The synthetic screens were also expected to be used in the Apple Watch set to hit the market in April.

The collaboration came apart late last year after GTAT filed for bankruptcy and accused Apple of saddling the company with onerous terms in the deal.

State officials said the investment is a good deal for Arizona.

"Apple is a company that we wanted to come to Arizona, previously with a third party," state Governor Doug Ducey said during a press conference.

"Now, we have Apple itself investing in our state. This is a one-of-a-kind company, they just had a world record quarterly earnings, and they are coming to Arizona." Ducey said Apple has made a 30-year commitment with the data center, and that it will sign on about 150 employees along with creating hundreds of construction jobs during the building phases.

Greenpeace senior IT sector analyst Gary Cook lauded Apple's decision to build an Arizona data center powered by renewable energy.

"Apple remains the most aggressive among major IT companies in delivering on its commitments to be 100 per cent renewable, and has shown the business community that solar is ready, here and now, to power our economy," Cook said.

He call on other technology industry titans, particularly Amazon and its massive cloud services operation, follow suit.