Apple is the latest American corporation to make a major investment in renewable energy. The tech company just announced a deal to put $848 million into the California Flats Solar Project, a 2,600-acre facility in rural Monterey, California, run by photovoltaic company First Solar. Of the facility’s total 280-megawatt output, Apple secured 130 megawatts by signing a 25-year contract—the industry’s largest agreement to provide green energy to a commercial company.
The move is in step with Apple’s broader goal to inject more renewable energy into the areas where it sets up shop. Earlier this month, Apple announced a plan to build a $2-billion solar-powered data center in Mesa, Arizona. All its other data centers are now fueled by solar, wind, or geothermal. The 130 megawatts from California Flats is enough energy to power Apple’s forthcoming new headquarters in Cupertino, 150 miles north of the facility, as well as every other California office, the state’s 52 retail stores, and a computer center, according to Apple CEO Tim Cook. In the bigger picture, Apple is showing its concerns about climate change and doing its part to help drive the country’s transition to a low-carbon economy.
“Apple’s commitment was instrumental in making this project possible and will significantly increase the supply of solar power in California,” says Joe Kishkill, First Solar’s chief commercial officer.
Apple won’t use the clean energy directly. Instead, the company will get credit, at wholesale rates, from the major Northern California utility company, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), for sending so much clean energy into the grid. PG&E has a contract for the remaining 150 megawatts of energy from California Flatts. If all goes according to plan, construction on the Monterey facility will begin later this year, and the project should be completed by the end of 2016.