Apple, working with Nevada utility NV Energy, is planning to build another solar panel farm next to a data center, and this time it’s for its new data center in Reno, Nevada. Apple has already been building two solar panel farms next to its data center in North Carolina, and this latest solar farm in Reno, called the “Ft. Churchill Solar Array,” shows Apple’s growing commitment to clean power at its new facilities.
Apple’s solar farm in Reno will be able to provide between 18 to 20 MW worth of power, which is about the same size as its two solar plants in North Carolina, which are both 20 MW in size. For an independent company (not a utility) — particular an internet company — 18 to 20 MW is a very large solar system.
But for the Reno solar farm, Apple is actually planning to use a new type of technology for the solar system, which includes both solar panels and also mirrors that concentrate the sun’s rays up to seven times onto the panels. That process increases the amount of power generated.
Apple is working with solar company SunPower on the engineering and construction, as well as the tracker technology that will be used with the solar panels. Apple also worked with SunPower for its North Carolina solar farms.
Apple’s partnership with utility NV Energy also shows how Apple is looking to work closely with utilities in states to create clean power options for its data centers. Apple is one of the first companies to take advantage of a new green tariff approved by Nevada’s utility commission that will enable Apple to pay for the cost of building the solar panel farm.
Since Apple will assume the incremental building costs throughout the project, the rates of NV Energy’s other customers doesn’t have to go up. Duke Energy and Google are working on a similar (though slightly different) proposal in North Carolina.
In the Nevada green tariff proposal, NV Energy can also pay Apple to use or even eventually buy the solar farm and include it in its energy generating assets. The Nevada state utility commission approved the green tariff on June 12. Apple has an option to expand the solar farm as well.
Because building the solar farm might take awhile, Apple plans to also use local geothermal power (the Galena 3 geothermal facility), which is widely available in the Reno area. Part of the reason that Apple chose to build its next data center in Reno, Nevada was because of the abundant clean power there.
The Apple Reno solar farm could create 100 jobs during the construction period.
Apple addressed the project in a statement:
All of Apple’s data centers use 100 percent renewable energy, and we are on track to meet that goal in our new Reno data center using the latest in high-efficiency concentrating solar panels. This project will not only supply renewable energy for our data center but also provide clean energy to the local power grid, through a first-of-its-kind partnership with NV Energy. When completed, the 137 acre solar array will generate approximately 43.5 million kilowatt hours of clean energy, equivalent to taking 6,400 passenger vehicles off the road per year.
NV Energy CEO Michael Yackira said in a statement:
We’re excited to be in partnership with Apple on a new solar energy project, the first project under our new Green Energy Program. This program allows customers such as Apple to choose to have a greater proportion of their energy coming from renewables than the law requires, without having a cost impact on our other customers.
Apple is looking to eventually use 100 percent clean power for its data centers through a combination of direct clean power generation, buying renewable energy credits and buying clean power from providers.