Apple is to buy the entire output of a solar energy complex being built in California, under one of the power purchase agreements (PPAs) increasingly popular in the industry.
The IT giant has signed a 25-year agreement to buy the potential 130 megawatts of power that could be generated in future by solar project under way in Monterey County, California.
The California Flats Solar project involves covering a 2,900 acre site in solar panels. The installer of these photo-voltaic devices, First Solar, will begin building construction on the Cholame ranch land in June 2015 and has a provisional completion date December 2016.
In January Monterey County planning officials approved the project but it has not yet has final approval from a county board of supervisors. A verdict is expected on February 11th.
Apple’s commitment to buying the energy made al the difference in getting the environmentally friendly project off the ground and through to completion, according to First Solar’s chief commercial officer Joe Kishkill.
“Apple’s commitment was instrumental in making this project possible and will significantly increase the supply of solar power in California,” said Kishkill.
Environmental campaigner Greenpeace has been heavily critical of Apple in the past and in 2012 it accused Apple of being ‘mostly talk but not enough walk”. More recently, in April 2014, Greenpeace recognized Apple had made some progress in lowering its carbon footprint and using sustainably sourced power supplies. However, its “Clicking Clean” report into the data center industry hinted Apple could do better. It praised the commitment of Facebook and Google to sustainable energy, condemned the power sourcing policies of Twitter and Amazon, while Apple came somewhere in between.
First Solar’s Kishkill spoke up for Apple’s initiative on solar power. “Over time, the renewable energy from California Flats will provide cost savings over alternative sources of energy as well as substantially lower environmental impact,” said Kishkill. Without Apple’s financial commitment, the project would not have happened, according to Kishkill.
Apple’s data centers currently consume around 300,000 megawatt-hours, with the rest of the company’s activities burning a further 230,000 megawatt-hours, according to Apple’s own environmental figures.
Apple recently announced its intention to invest $2 billion on building a data center in Arizona.