Apple’s CEO Tim Cook says the company is ready to spend nearly $850 million on a solar energy project that will generate enough power for the computer giant’s new corporate headquarters, retail stores and other operations in California.

This deal will make Apple the biggest single consumer of energy from the new impressive solar facility, which is being constructed on 2,900 acres in rural Monterey County, south of the San Francisco Bay Area where Apple is headquartered.

The Arizona-based First Solar Inc. is building the facility, which will have a capacity of 280 megawatts – enough to power 60,000 homes.

Apple has signed a 25-year contract for electricity from 130 megawatts of the plant’s capacity which is about 45 percent.

The fact that the cost of solar has fallen to a point where it can compete with grid power in some places must have been a major contributor to the success of this lustrous deal. Aside from the fact that Apple is using this to make a clear statement of its war against climate change.

“We know in Apple that climate change is real. The time for talk is passed,” said Apple’s CEO Tim Cook. ‘The time for action is now.”

He added that the company’s computer centers already are powered by various forms of renewable energy.

Cook says this will cover the power needs for Apple’s new headquarters in Cupertino, California, and all the company’s existing stores and data centers in California.

First Solar expects to start building the plant by mid-year and finish it in 2016.

Typically in such agreements the power produced at a plant is fed into the grid, and whoever has bought the power gets to count it against their normal power consumption.

The total cost for the new plant is not being disclosed; nor is how much Apple will pay per kilowatt-hour for electricity from it.

But in 2010 electricity from such a plant would have cost around 24 cents per kilowatt-hour, and the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the cost per watt for solar has dropped more than 50 percent since.

Story developing.

Image: Futuristic: The massive new solar energy project will generate enough power for the computer giant’s new corporate headquarters (pictured in artist rendering)

Derick Lila
Derick is a Clark University graduate—and Fulbright alumni with a Master's Degree in Environmental Science, and Policy. He has over a decade of solar industry research, marketing, and content strategy experience.

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