$850m project, tripling Apple's solar investmentYesterday, the media was abuzz with the news that Apple's market cap passed the 700 billion dollars mark. That financial milestone might matter to some, but to us, what matters more is another milestone: At a tech conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed that the company would be building a gigantic new solar farm with First Solar to produce enough clean energy to not only power all of its new 'Spaceship' HQ in Cupertino, but all of it's Californian operations. This is in addition to the multiple solar farms that Apple has already built to help power its datacenters (ie. iCloud) with 100% clean energy, something which earned the company praise even from Greenpeace.
The largest commercial agreement in the history of the solar industryHere are Tim Cook's exact words on this announcement, in front of a bunch of bankers and financial analysts:
And we did a lot for the environment last year, as well, adding on to some things that we're doing, and I'd like to spend just a second on this — we know, in Apple, that climate change is real. And our view is that the time for talk has passed, and the time for action is now. And we've shown that with what we've done. And so we're now running all of our data centers, which require lots of energy for those of you that understand data centers, all of them are run off renewable energy.
The reference to climate change is welcome. Too many big company executives try to hide behind their fiduciary duties to avoid taking a position publicly on the issue, and to avoid having to do much about it. Well, I believe that they've got this backwards: Their fiduciary duties should compel them to be good stewards for the long-term, and that includes thinking about big long-term problems like global warming and doing their part. Even from a purely self-interested point of view, big companies should want to be see as good corporate citizens rather than coal-powered dinosaurs...
Back to Cook:
And just today, we're announcing our biggest, boldest, and most ambitious project ever: We are building — we're partnering with First Solar — to build a solar farm in Monterey County, so not too far from here. It's 1300 acres. It's enough power for almost 60,000 California homes. And it's enough to provide renewable energy for all of our new campus — that you and I were just speaking of a few minutes ago, Apple Campus 2 — every other office we have in California, all 52 retail stores we have in California, and our data center in Newark. And so, it's an 850 million dollar investment.
Enough clean energy for all of Apple's California operationsYou read that right, $850m in a single project. According to First Solar, this is the "largest agreement in the [solar] industry to provide clean energy to a commercial end user". The project will have a capacity of 150MW, and Apple will buy 130 MW, with the rest going to PG&E. Construction is expected to begin in mid-2015, and to be completed by the end of 2016.
This is big, and since most of Apple's U.S. activities are in California and their datacenters elsewhere are already powered by clean energy, this probably means that almost the whole company will now be powered by renewables.
The next step is obvious to try to push their suppliers elsewhere in the world to do the same.
This new announcement wasn't the only one either. Apple has been coming out with an announcement after another for new solar plants: Just last week they announced a new one in Arizona (70 MW), and they already have a few others already in operation.
Below you can see an existing Apple solar far, this one in Maiden, North-Carolina, where they plan to have at least 3:
As an aside, Cook couldn't help but take a jab at the lack of diversity in the financial audience in front of him:
And so right now, if you're like most men, you carry your phone in your front pocket. I see too many men in this audience, by the way, there needs to be a lot more women, a lot more diversity here.