Apple continues to aggressively adopt solar to power its data centers. On Tuesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that the company plans to spend $850 million to purchase energy from a solar panel farm that is being built by First Solar in Monterey, California.
The companies called the deal the largest ever to supply clean power to a commercial user. The deal is structured as a power purchase agreement (or PPA) over 25 years, which means that Apple has agreed to buy the solar power at a fixed low rate over 25 years. At the Goldman Sachs Tech and Internet Conference, where Apple made the announcement, Cook said the deal “makes business sense” for Apple.
The solar farm, called the California Flats Solar Project, will be built by solar giant First Solar on 2,900 acres, and it will have enough capacity for 280 MW. The site will use First Solar’s solar panels.
Apple will buy the power from 130 MW, and in a separate deal PG&E will buy the solar power from 150 MW. The amount of power that Apple is buying is the equivalent to power 60,000 average California homes.
Having a company, like Apple, or a utility, like PG&E, lined up to buy the power from a solar farm is an important part of getting the solar farm built. So the fact that Apple entered into the PPA with First Solar, helped First Solar get the project ready for construction.
Construction will start on the California Flats Solar Project in mid-2015 and is supposed to be finished by the end of 2016. First Solar said that the Monterey County Planning Commission has approved the project, but now it needs to be approved by the Monterey County Board of Supervisors.
Cook said that the amount of solar that Apple is purchasing from the farm will be enough to provide clean power for its new campus in California, all of its other offices, all 52 retail stores in California, and its data center in the state.
Before Cook made the announcement he noted that “We know at Apple that climate change is real, and our view is the time for talk has past. The time for action is now.”
Apple has committed to use 100 percent clean energy, and over the past few years has been implementing that goal by building and financing solar farms, among other methods. At the end of 2013 I took an in-depth dive into Apple’s clean energy strategy.
Apple has built solar farms in North Carolina, one outside of Reno, Nevada, and will also use solar to power a command center data center in Arizona, announced last week. The Arizona solar farms will be built in partnership with local utility Salt River Project, and will provide 70 MW of solar power for Apple, which is enough solar energy for 14,500 Arizonan homes.
To learn more about the massive solar panel farms being built in the Southwest of the U.S., check out this special report.