Apple chief executive Tim Cook said Tuesday that the company is taking on an ambitious project: an enormous solar farm that will provide enough power for all of the company's corporate offices, California stores, its forthcoming campus and more.
The project will be done in collaboration with First Solar Inc. as part of that firm's 2,900-acre California Flats solar project. Apple's portion of the farm is 1,300 acres and will add 130 megawatts of new solar power to the state of California, First Solar said in a release.
Cook made his comments at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in New York; Apple streamed the remarks online. Cook said he expects the $848 million investment Apple makes in the solar farm will result in "significant savings" for Apple, because the firm can secure a fixed cost for renewable energy that is cheaper than traditional power. He called it the company's "biggest and boldest" project to date, according to Apple Insider.
Apple has not always had a stellar reputation in environmental matters. The company faced public criticism from Greenpeace in 2006 over the use of toxic chemicals in its products. But Apple turned a page in 2007 and aggressively committed to making itself greener.
When it comes to energy use, Apple has walked the talk. All of the company's data centers run on renewable energy sources -- solar, wind and geothermal. According to Apple's latest company report on environmental initiatives, 73 percent of all its facilities are green. The company also hired former Environmental Protection Agency head Lisa Jackson to be its vice president of environmental initiatives in 2013. Just last week, as the Associated Press reported, Apple pledged to foot the bill for 70 megawatts of new solar power in Arizona, to power a new data center.
Tuesday's announcement earned Apple quick praise from Greenpeace senior IT sector analyst Gary Cook (who is not related to the Apple CEO). "It's one thing to talk about being 100 percent renewably powered, but it's quite another thing to make good on that commitment with the incredible speed and integrity that Apple has shown in the past two years," said Greenpeace's Cook. "Apple still has work to do to reduce its environmental footprint, but other Fortune 500 CEOs would be well served to make a study of Tim Cook, whose actions show that he intends to take Apple full-speed ahead toward renewable energy with the urgency that our climate crisis demands."
The 25-year agreement between First Solar and Apple is believed to be the industry's largest such deal so far. Construction will begin in Monterey County, Calif., this year and is expected to finish by the end of 2016, First Solar said.