A new 300-acre solar power plant built by computer giant Apple, Inc.in Florence, Arizona will be able to power over 12,000 homes on a good day. Apple had previously committed to running their command center project, a global data center network in Mesa, Arizona, on solar power, but prior to now, hadn’t offered any explanations on how it was going to accomplish this.
Salt River Project of Arizona had a board meeting recently, in which they voted to buy power from Apple’s Bonnybrooke plant. Details of pricing weren’t disclosed, but will provide a net reduction in Apple’s total utility expenses, since the power Apple will sell from the Bonnybrooke plant will offset the electrical energy used by the Mesa command center project, which has been said to have a thirty year timeline.
Apple has taken over a 1.3 million square-foot building in Mesa. SRP has said that the project, which is expected to require 500 construction workers to retrofit the building and another 150 Apple employees after that, won’t negatively impact SRP customers.
It’s important to Apple that their customers are aware that when they ask Siri a question, they aren’t contributing negatively to global climate change. This admirable commitment to clean energy comes at a time when many industrial giants are eschewing climate change responsibility.
Apple’s plant will generate 151 million kilowatt-hours of power a year. If SRP purchases the power at the same 5.3 cents per kilowatt-hour they committed to the Sandstone project (another Florence-based solar plant), it will cost SRP $8 million per year. A 20-year contract would then cost SRP $160 million.
SRP is a non-profit, community-based utility. They have committed to meet 20% of their retail electricity needs through sustainable options (solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and energy-efficiency programs) by 2020. To date, they are already at 14%, well ahead of their schedule. They are the third biggest public power utility in the U.S., serving over a million customers in the Phoenix Metro and surrounding area.
SRP has been tight-lipped about their negotiations with Apple, but it may be a portent of things to come that Apple chose the Phoenix area for their command center. As the price of solar hardware falls, one can imagine that more companies interested in clean, sustainable energy will darken our desert.