Why Apple and Google are going Solar

By Elliot Bullman

Silicon Valley’s biggest companies are investing in renewable energy in a serious way – a sign, perhaps, of rapid changes in the energy market.

Most people think of Apple as a company that makes phones, computers and smart watches – not an energy provider. But in August all of that changed when the firm was given permission tosell energy from a Californian solarfarm that it acquired last year.

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Apple has invested in renewable energy before and says it ultimately wants all of its operations to be powered by 100% renewable sources. It’s not alone in such efforts, either. Online retailer Amazon just announced the construction of anew, 253-megawatt wind farm in West Texas.Google, meanwhile, has invested in the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System and it recently joined forces with thecompany SunPower to provide solar panels to home-owners. Why are tech companies so interested in renewables?

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For these big corporations, electricity is one of their biggest costs,” says Ash Sharma, a solar energy analyst at IHS Technology. “Locking that in at a low price is really critical for them.”

Why, though, would Google be interested in putting solar panels on people’s homes? The firm says it wants to map “the planet’s solar potential” – the data from these panels, including their uptake, could inform future energy strategies.

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And as the cost of building a solar farm plummets, the world has witnessed a rise in jaw-droppingly big installations. Only a few years ago, says Sharma, a50-megawatt project might have been considered big. But there are now several facilities poised to produce a few hundred megawatts or more.

The tech giants are some of the largest and most powerful companies in the world. Maybe it’s not really a surprise that they’re getting into energy because, as they know very well, everything else depends on its production.

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