Apple announces $850m giant solar farm

"The time for change is now," proclaimed Apple CEO Tim Cook as he announced the tech giant is committing $848m to clean energy in the form of a 280MW solar farm in California.

The 2,900-acre California Flats Solar Project is being developed by First Solar and will include a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) which will see Apple receive 130MW of the generated electricity to power the corporation’s new ‘spaceship’ headquarters in the Californian city of Cupertino.

“We know at Apple that climate change is real,” Cook reportedly told an audience at the Goldman Sach’s Technology and Internet conference. “The time for talk has passed and the time for action is now. We’re thrilled to continue on a course of doing things that make the world better than we found it.”

Leading the way

Construction of the giant solar farm is expected to begin in mid-2015 and to be completed by the end of 2016. This is said to be the largest PPA in the industry to provide clean energy to a commercial end user.

First Solar’s chief commercial officer Joe Kishkill said: “Apple is leading the way in addressing climate change by showing how large companies can serve their operations with 100% clean, renewable energy.

“Apple’s commitment was instrumental in making this project possible and will significantly increase the supply of solar power in California. Over time, the renewable energy from California Flats will provide cost savings over alternative sources of energy as well as substantially lower environmental impact.”

The output of the remaining 150MW from the California Flats Solar Project will be sold to Pacific Gas & Electric under a separate long-term PPA, and the project is fully subscribed between the Apple and PG&E PPAs.

Strong stance

Last year, Apple published a video narrated by chief executive Cook on its green initiatives and updated environment web pages; claiming that 100% of its data centres were powered by renewable energy sources such as solar.

Cook also recently told climate change sceptics that they should ditch Apple shares if they did not like the company’s backing for renewable energy and sustainability, leading Virgin group founder Richard Branson to say he was “enormously impressed” by Cook’s stance and his call for climate change deniers to “get out of the way”.

Video: Apple’s data centre solar array

Luke Nicholls

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