Apple, which has committed to fully powering its operations with renewable energy, has signed a 25-year agreement to buy the output of 130 megawatts of generation capacity of a future solar project in Monterey County, California.
Apple’s data centers consume more energy than any other part of the company’s operations. That has been the case since fiscal 2013, when energy consumed by its corporate facilities was about 230,000 megawatt-hours, and energy consumed by its data centers was about 300,000 megawatt-hours, according to a company environmental responsibility report.
Energy consumption by the Apple data center fleet is about to go up once again. The company announced earlier this month it was going to build a massive data center in Arizona. Given the Arizona project and Apple’s public commitment to operations powered by 100-percent renewable energy, the pressure to secure that energy is on.
The company signed a long-term $848-million power purchase agreement with First Solar, a Tempe, Arizona-based photovoltaic solar systems to receive nearly half of the energy the future solar farm will produce. First Solar signed a PPA with the California utility PG&E for the remaining 150 megawatts.
Called California Flats Solar project, the 2,900-acre site takes up a small portion of a property owned by Hearst Corp. in Cholame, an unincorporated area within Monterey County. Besides its association with the famous American media dynasty, Cholame, which is mostly cattle-ranch land, is known for being the site where actor James Dean died in a car accident in 1955.
First Solar plans to start construction in Cholame by mid-2015 and be finished by the end of next year. County planning officials approved the project in January, and the county board of supervisors is due to take the final vote on it today.
Long-term PPAs are often what makes such large-scale renewable energy projects possible, since they secure the financing necessary. California Flats was no exception.
“Apple's commitment was instrumental in making this project possible and will significantly increase the supply of solar power in California,” Joe Kishkill, First Solar’s chief commercial officer, said in a statement. “Over time, the renewable energy from California Flats will provide cost savings over alternative sources of energy as well as substantially lower environmental impact.”