Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Get HideMyAss! VPN, PC Mag's Top 10 VPNs of 2016 for 55% off for a Limited Time ×
Power Apple

Apple Invests $848 Million Into Solar Farm 191

An anonymous reader writes: Apple is making a huge investment in solar energy, sending $848 million to First Solar's California Flats Solar Project. The deal will supply Apple with energy for 25 years. Construction of the new 2,900-acre solar farm will start this summer and finish by the end of 2016. Apple's share of the energy produced will be about 130 megawatts, while another 150 MW will be sold to Pacific Gas & Electric. "The iPhone maker already powers all of its data centers with renewable energy. Tim Cook, Apple's chief executive officer, has advocated taking more steps to combat climate change."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Apple Invests $848 Million Into Solar Farm

Comments Filter:
  • Is this the kind that incinerates all the birds that fly by, just so it can boil some water in a central tower?
    Or is it an actual solar cells of some sort that directly produce electricity?
    They really need some sort of better name to differentiate between these...

    • by sith ( 15384 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2015 @10:46AM (#49028715)

      First Solar only does photovoltaics, so no birds will be incinerated.

    • http://www.firstsolar.com/en/about-us/projects/california-flats

      Call me stupid, but is the bird incineration thing an actual concern holding back solar thermal energy? Or is just classic /. sarcasm? The former scenario sounds just impossibly stupid enough to be real

      • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2015 @11:12AM (#49028947)

        is the bird incineration thing an actual concern holding back solar thermal energy?

        No:
        1. There are far bigger problems holding back solar thermal, especially the falling price of PV solar.
        2. The number of birds incinerated is negligible compared to the number killed by things like habitat destruction.

        This particular plant is PV, not thermal. So it isn't even an issue.
        Solar thermal makes little economic sense. It is more expensive than PV, and the only advantage is its ability to provide base load power. But that is only a theoretical advantage, not a real one, since the current demand curve for electric power fits the production curve of PV quite well.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

          1. There are far bigger problems holding back solar thermal, especially the falling price of PV solar.

          Solar thermal makes a good base load supplier, and can react fairly quickly to changes in demand which makes it ideal for backing up solar PV. Price isn't everything, we need different technologies to solve different problems.

          Considering what early solar thermal plants are costing it looks like it will be very price competitive with the alternatives (nuclear, coal, gas) and is of course very clean. Bird deaths are similar or lower to nuclear and much lower than coal, and they are all a fraction of the carna

          • Solar thermal makes a good base load supplier

            In theory. In reality, California does not lack base load capacity, we lack peak load capacity. So providing extremely expensive electricity in the middle of the night, when prices are lowest, has little practical benefit, and is financial insanity.

            Solar thermal may make sense in locations with base load shortages, and high wholesale prices around the clock, like Hawaii. But it makes no sense in California.

            • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

              True today, but even California needs clean base load going forward. Solar thermal is rapidly dropping in cost as the technology matures. If you are lucky enough to have room and sunshine, it's a good option and already cheaper than nuclear over its lifetime.

              • True today, but even California needs clean base load going forward.

                No it doesn't. Electricity consumption is falling, as people adopt LED lights, more efficient TVs and computers, adaptive thermostats, etc. California is unlikely to need any additional base load for the foreseeable future.

                • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

                  Yes it does. Power stations don't last forever. Eventually they need to be replaced with something. Some are quite dirty as well, so replacing them might be desirable.

                  Your mistake was assuming I was talking about additional capacity. Re-read what I wrote. All I said was that in future there will still be a requirement for base load, hence there is a place for solar thermal as well as solar PV.

            • Peak load goes for about 4 hours beyond sunset. Solar thermal can cover this peak load. With Solar PV - you have to build plants that are only used 4 hours per day. http://www.caiso.com/outlook/S... [caiso.com] Cooking birds is a real problem for some forms of solar thermal plants but not the solar trough plants. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A... [wikipedia.org]. If your only goal is to prevent CO2 release and cost of electricity does not matter - then Solar PV is the way to go. If your goal is to minimize total daily electric c
            • It makes sense in California, too.

              First: it is cheaper than coal or nuclear.
              Second: it produces no CO2, compared to coal.

              There are no places with 'base load shortage' is that a new FUD term?

          • Base load plants don't adjust to demand.
            They stay on a fixed output all day all night all year long.
            Hence the name: base load.

            Solar thermal plants have a very small range of adaption/reaction. You basically can only store more heat in the storage medium and drop steam production for the turbines, and that you can only do 'so long'. Afterwards the only thing is to power up to a higher level again.

            I'm not aware of a single solar thermal plant that even does that. AFAIK they all run at full power all the time.

        • > It is more expensive than PV

          The proper comparison is to PV at the same installed capacity. Solar thermal started later, and therefore has had less of a learning curve. Also, heliostat mirrors are inherently cheaper than solar panels because a sheet of mirrored glass is simpler to make than a finished panel. Most of the cost comes from the steerable mount that aims the mirror at the tower, but there is a lot of room for improvement there.

          > The number of birds incinerated

          Could be reduced quite a

      • by Jeremi ( 14640 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2015 @11:19AM (#49029013) Homepage

        Yes, to both. CSP has been known to singe/kill birds that fly into the concentrated light.

        OTOH, the number of birds killed that way is insignificant compared to the number killed by house cats, or by flying into windows. It's a non-issue except for people who want to argue using emotional appeals instead of rational cost/benefit evaluation.

        • by Ark42 ( 522144 )

          I'm not actually worried about the handful of birds so much as I just think CSP is a waste of money that could better be spent developing cheaper and more efficient photovoltaic cells.

          • by dave420 ( 699308 )
            That might be, but until it's actually tried, we won't know. Hence them trying.
          • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

            I'm not actually worried about the handful of birds so much as I just think CSP is a waste of money that could better be spent developing cheaper and more efficient photovoltaic cells.

            You might be right, but CSP does have its advantages; cheaper materials for one (at least until PV cell prices come down a good deal more), and more importantly, the ability to continue generating power after sunset (or when clouds pass overhead) by using heat that was stored up earlier during the day. The heated salt solution acts like a huge, inexpensive battery in that respect.

          • It has plenty of industrial use where what you want is heat, and not electricity. You don't get the conversion losses from heat to electrons moving. A big example is the 6% of the world's CO2 emissions that come from making Portland Cement (the binder in concrete). Making that product involves heating a mix of shale/clay plus limestone to high temperatures, which changes it chemically. Today it is mostly done by burning fossil fuels, but solar would work just as well.

      • I would be more worried about the damage cats do to bird populations [theoatmeal.com]. I have not problems shooting feral house cats or any house cats I find out in the woods, and I have shot a number of them. With so many people worried about invasive non native species I'm surprised more attention isn't given to all of those feral house cats. Those stupid things are substantially more destructive than most other non native species but yet because cats are kept as pets people get upset about dispatching feral ones.
        • I actually don't care how many rats, mice and even rabbits a feral house cat kills. Even birds.

          If you had not extinct wild cats, tomcats, lynx, fox, wolf, coyote or what ever used to live in 'your wilderness' those would take care of it.

          Do you really think a house cat would dare to run free in the territory of a lynx or tomcat? Well, dare it would ... but punished it would be, too.

          You are an idiot who has no clue about wildlife, and I bet the only way for you to figure if a cat is a feral house cat or a tom

          • Actually feral cats or cats people don't give a shit about do roam freely where I hunt, and there are all sorts of predators up there, I have seen the cougar on a number of occasions, been stalked by the wolves, seen a lynx at a distance, been about 2 feet from a black bear, have taken a number of coyotes, and have seen the foxes prancing down the road. There isn't a house for 5 miles in just about any direction and the house cat is not something that is native to north America. Also feral cats do do a larg
            • There are two kinds of people holding a cat.
              Those who keep it indoor and those who let it go where it wants.
              As long as the cat comes home often enough it is not feral.

              In germany the law regarding shooting cats is that they need to be quite far outside of habitated zones. No idea how far.

              If you have so much wildlife around you, then the feral cats don't do much harm. Pretty idiotic to shoot them. Sounds like a knee jerk reaction of: I can shoot that legally! BOOM!

              As long as a certain animal is not run rogue,

              • Feral cats do great harm. They have no real predators. Not sure about Germany, but 'rouge' perfectly describes feral cats in US wilderness areas.

                Squirrels can get out of hand in an area where all their predators and competition are gone. (Cats often killed that competition btw.) The squirrels themselves will then start murdering each other; it's an awful sight to see. And hear too; young squirrels scream and sound a lot like tiny children as the adult males go around killing them.

                But I sort of agree with yo

              • >Never understood why it is a common children sport in the states to shoot Squirrels.

                You've never seen one eat the insulation and wiring in a house then. They are rodents, and just like other rodents are very destructive if their numbers grow too large.

      • It's neither - just another excuse for baseless obstructionism. First of all you're dealing with the minuscule number of birds that fly over a given piece of featureless open desert. Within that area, the bird incineration takes place in the tiny volume of concentrated sunlight at the focus point. Birds can roost on the collectors all day long and not come to harm. Only the few really stupid birds get the Sierra Club lawyers.

    • by radl33t ( 900691 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2015 @10:49AM (#49028755)
      This isn't concentrated solar power (CSP) it is CdTe "thin film" flat panel photvoltaics. They do have distinguishing names, just don't count on Reuters to get it right. AFAIK, there is no CSP station that incinerates all the birds that fly by. There are some CSP plants that can burn birds that fly too close to the focal point on the central tower...
    • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2015 @10:51AM (#49028775) Homepage Journal
      The Apple iSolar panel will have a brushed aluminum back, rounded bevel and will do everything but generate solar power.
      • It WOULD generate power, if people weren't holding it wrong!

      • by jd2112 ( 1535857 )

        The Apple iSolar panel will have a brushed aluminum back, rounded bevel and will do everything but generate solar power.

        Samsung will a better, cheaper solar panel and will immediately be sued by Apple.

        • by jo_ham ( 604554 )

          The Apple iSolar panel will have a brushed aluminum back, rounded bevel and will do everything but generate solar power.

          Samsung will a better, cheaper solar panel and will immediately be sued by Apple.

          However, Samsung's panel will inject adverts into your power stream and record everything you say while you're using it.

        • The Apple iSolar panel will have a brushed aluminum back, rounded bevel and will do everything but generate solar power.

          Samsung will a better, cheaper solar panel and will immediately be sued by Apple.

          Nevertheless Samsung will happily continue to deliver said same panels to Apple during and after the lawsuit.

        • Samsung in fact does make solar panels:

          http://www.samsung.com/us/busi... [samsung.com]

    • > They really need some sort of better name to differentiate between these...

      Like "PV" vs. "CSP" maybe?

      • by Ark42 ( 522144 )

        Yeah, but until more people start using "photovoltaic cells" and "concentrated solar power", whenever people just say "solar", it's going to be somewhat ambiguous. One of these things probably has a lot of room to be developed into something inexpensive, small, and efficient, while the other is basically a dead-end technology that is just a short-sighted a waste of money.

  • by Camembert ( 2891457 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2015 @10:56AM (#49028819)
    Obviously, this initiative will generate plenty of snarky comments and cynicism over here because, well, Apple.
    But if we take a step back I think it is great that a company sets this example to combat climate change while it would be so easy not to anything that doesn't bring direct shareholder revenue. I hope that more successful companies follow this example.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      It's more about saving money than caring about the climate. Lots of big companies running data centres are doing it because solar is so cheap compared to the grid. There is some initial outlay for the panels, not that much in comparison to the rest of the data centre, and then in a few years they have paid for themselves and your electricity bills are slashed.

      Looking like you care is a nice bonus, but secondary to making your product more competitive by reducing costs.

  • Advocate only? (Score:2, Interesting)

    Tim Cook, Apple's chief executive officer, has advocated taking more steps to combat climate change."

    The thing is when you're the CEO of the richest company in history (maybe?), you're in the unique position of actually being able to do something instead of suggesting other people do it (aka advocating). Way to be just like the rest of us, Tim Cook.

    But for today I'll be glad Apple has spent ~0.7% or whatever of it's cash reserves on something they would have to buy anyway and thus gets counted as an investment. I'd be really impressed if they took $10B or so and spent it on some promising new nuclear or fu

    • The thing is when you're the CEO of the richest company in history (maybe?),

      Not even close

      Dutch East India company at an inflation adjusted capitalization of $7,000,000,000,000.00
      http://www.fool.com/investing/... [fool.com]

      • Adjusting for inflation over that many years is tricky, and often subsumes real increases in wealth. The Wikipedia article references an article in the Atlantic about Apple, which makes it difficult to find supporting evidence. I haven't seen the basis for these estimates, or how the valuation was split between its functions as a company and its functions as a government.

    • I'd be really impressed if they took $10B or so and spent it on some promising new nuclear or fusion project.

      Why should a bunch of techno hippies invest into nuclear power, regardless what kind?

      (Considering that solar is cheaper right now already and in the long run will be cheaper than any other energy source we can think of right now)

  • "[Apple] powers all of its data centers with renewable energy"

    Solar makes lots of sense in the California desert. However, I find statements like the above really annoying. In the night, solar provides zilch. On calm days, the same for wind. Apple's data centers hang off the grid like anyone else, and the great weakness of all renewables is irregular production and lack of storage.

    • by jo_ham ( 604554 )

      They use more than just solar PV. You should probably do some research before you "get annoyed" about a statement that you have not checked up on in detail.

    • by zlives ( 2009072 )

      "lack of (local) storage" is a technological issue.
      not sure on the numbers but it is possible that Apple produces enough during the day to offset its use at night and being "hang off the grid" is the energy storage system during peak production.

    • Capacity can be smoothened out with battery storage-- that's where someplace like Tesla's Gigafactory comes in; it drops the price LiOn batteries by 30%, while the used batteries can then be sent off to solar farms to hold excess capacity, releasing it at night.

  • by Maury Markowitz ( 452832 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2015 @11:14AM (#49028957) Homepage

    $850 million for 130 MW? That's $6.50 a watt. Commercial scale solar is supposed to be around $1.60. Am I missing something here?

    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2015 @11:29AM (#49029139)

      $850 million for 130 MW? That's $6.50 a watt. Commercial scale solar is supposed to be around $1.60. Am I missing something here?

      It is much more expensive to make the solar panels with rounded corners.

    • Actually, it's 280MW, 150MW will be sold to PG&E. Apple will be running a profit during peak hours.

      • Actually, no.

        Apple is HELPING to build the installation. They're not funding it fully. They're funding enough to get 130MW as their share of the pie.

    • Replying to OP to clarify the figures for all the replies who clearly don't know how these things are measured.

      130 MW is the nameplate capacity, aka peak generating capacity. i.e. If the sun were directly overhead on a cloudless day and the panels had just been cleaned, how much power would they generate?

      Actual production over a year is the nameplate capacity times capacity factor times one year. PV solar's capacity factor for the continental U.S. averages about 0.145. It peaks in the desert southw
      • You are mixing up 'nameplate capacity' with 'peak capacity'.

        Nameplate capacity is what a plant actually does produce, not what it could, or does at peak, hence the name: nameplate.

        Actual production over a year is the nameplate capacity times capacity factor times one year.
        Not it is not. Solar panels have no capacity factor. They have a power production curve depending on orientation and tilt. They have a 'correction factor' local to the location where the panel is set into operation. E.g. same latitude on e

  • for their exclusive power needs. Apple just dams the sunlight.
  • by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2015 @11:18AM (#49029011)

    That all works out to about 3.0 cents per kWh (24-7).

    If they're not paying extra for the actual electricity, of course. TFA seems to be saying this will be their actual cost for the electricity for the next 25 years.

    I find myself wondering how they're managing such a low rate given that half the power they're buying (at least) will be generated by the local electric company the old-fashioned way (which charges about five times that for commercial power).

    • by jfengel ( 409917 )

      As I understand it, they usually report peak wattage rather than total energy production. It doesn't produce anything at night, and less most of the day. So the price per actual generated kWh may be closer to 10 or 12 cents. Which happens to be right around the national average, though considerably less than most of California.

      In the end, I don't think it's purely a price thing. They're hoping to have a positive impact on the world as well. But if they can do it while netting about the same price as they wo

      • In the end, I don't think it's purely a price thing. They're hoping to have a positive impact on the world as well.

        It's purely a price thing. Plus a little bit of publicity.

        If they were after having a "positive impact on the world", they could have spent $80B building solar installations without seriously straining their bankroll....

  • by pubwvj ( 1045960 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2015 @02:17PM (#49030985)

    Solar farms are very compatible with ecosystems and pasture based farming.

    I've seen several now and am impressed.

    In a desert situation the solar farm creates shade which conserves water by reducing evaporation and creating microclimates where life thrives. That's a good thing.

    In non-desert situations livestock can be grazed around the panels. Especially smaller livestock like sheep, goats, pigs and chickens. Cattle are more of a problem from rubbing on the bases but with big strong bases this becomes a non-issue. The livestock do the mowing that otherwise would be done mechanically. Done as managed rotational grazing this results in the sequestering of about 1.4 tons of carbon a year per acre or more. That's good for the environment. It also produces food, meat, from solar, the sunshine and plant activity. The moving shade of the panels is also beneficial to the livestock while letting the forages, plants, grow between them.

    Big win in either climate.

  • Well our Foxconn workers are basically slaves who jump off the roofs occasionally but we better use that 75% profit margin and illegal monopoly abuse proceeds to stop global warming! (actually they just want free electricity after the panels pay for their initial investment). At least now they can get an eco-credit on those taxes that they don't pay to the US gov.
  • The iPhone maker already powers all of its data centers with renewable energy and it's factories in China with second-born children

  • I remember when Apple used to create products that had incredibly positive impact on the lives of billions of people all over the world. Things like the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad -- all products that basically overnight changed everyone's ideas of what could be done in their areas.

    Then Steve Jobs died.

    4 years later all they've done is install 2015 model chips and plate some things in gold while Ive turns the most beautiful OS in existence into some kind of Japanese cartoon about bubblegum and Ti

Can't open /usr/fortunes. Lid stuck on cookie jar.

Working...