The iPhone-maker has been given permission to sell solar power generated at its $850 million solar farm. Apple Inc. joins other big-scale investors like Google and Amazon in the game of clean energy corporate investment.
Last year, Apple Inc. acquired a 2,900-acre solar power facility in Monterey County, California. The company spent $850 million on the farm, which has a capacity of 130 MW. On Thursday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted Apple’s subsidiary, Apple Energy LLC, official permission to sell the generated energy into wholesale markets. In their approval, the commission stated that the iPhone-maker must not raise the risk of unfairly increasing power prices.
Tech firms clean energy investments increase
Apple’s entrance into the market of solar power is just one in a series of many other tech companies that have started investing in clean energy. Google, Microsoft Corp. and Amazon are also putting money into solar farms and wind turbines to lower their carbon footprint and reduce electric costs. “We know that climate change is real,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said at a conference last year. “Our view is that the time for talk has passed, and the time for action is now. We’ve shown that with what we’ve done.”
130 MW of Apple solar power put to use
Apple said that the energy produced at the solar farm could power up to 60.000 homes in California. Energy expert Niall McDowell is not convinced that this is a realistic estimate. Whilst he believes it is great that technology giants like Apple are „investing in renewable power when (they) can, it doesn’t mean it’s about to go off-grid”. There is still a difference in installing solar panels and generating electricity from them, he told the BBC.
Apple states that the Monterey County site could supply enough electricity to power all its stores, offices, headquarters and a data centre. For the Head of policy at the Renewable Energy Association, James Court, Apple’s investment is a “positive step”. He reckons that Apple’s capacity is “sizeable.”
So far, Google is the biggest corporate buyer of clean energy in the US. Last year it purchased 236 MW of energy capacity from wind parks in Norway and Sweden, whilst Microsoft experimented with underwater data centres in order to reduce the energy used for cooling the facility.
Apple formed part in an agreement last year with First Solar Inc. to buy power from the California solar farm. The company also owns 20 megawatts of generation in the Nevada Power Company service area and 50 megawatts in the Salt River Project service area in Arizona, according to the FERC order. All of Apple’s data centers are now powered by renewables.