Apple rumor site AppleInsider says the solar farm Apple is planning to build next to its billion-dollar data center will be built with the help of a company called Leaf Solar Power based in Lake Worth, Fla. While the article focuses on how the company is a U.S.-based company and not a Chinese solar company, Leaf Solar Power looks like it’s mainly a solar project developer, so could potentially (and very likely) use Chinese-made solar panels for the solar farm, if the farm is using solar PV.
We just don’t have enough information about Apple’s solar project to know yet. Companies in the U.S. that want solar projects built on their campuses, or rooftops, or near factories, generally will work with a local solar project developer, which manages the construction of the farm, the financing and sourcing of the gear for the farm.
Leaf Solar Power says on its website that it offers a variety of clean power projects from solar panels, to solar thermal, to wind power to electric vehicle charging. Leaf Solar Power could buy solar panels from any number of vendors in the U.S. or China, or elsewhere, though Chinese-made solar panels are at their lowest point in history.
I chatted with a couple solar experts since the original story came out, and they’d never heard of Leaf Solar Power. Apple could work with a far more established project developer if it wanted to, so I really don’t know how far this rumored partnership will go.
Last month, news leaked that Apple was planning to build a solar farm on 171 acres of land across the street from its data center in Maiden, N.C., which is called iDataCenter, and will likely partly serve the Apple’s cloud-based service iCloud. The solar project was dubbed Project Dolphin Solar Farm.
While Google, Yahoo, Facebook and other Internet giants have been rather vocal about their interest in clean power and greener data centers, this seems to be Apple’s first foray into providing its data centers with clean power. In fact, Greenpeace previously estimated that Apple only sourced 6 percent of the power for its data centers from clean power.
North Carolina has one of the dirtiest electrical grids in the country, with 61 percent of the power coming from coal, and 31 percent from nuclear. It also has some of the cheapest power, which is likely why Apple decided to build its data center there.