Intelligent Energy

SunPower lands Apple solar farm deal

SunPower lands Apple solar farm deal

Posting in Energy

A recent regulatory filing reveals more details about Apple's solar-powered data center.

The 20-megawatt solar farm Apple is building at its massive $1 billion data center in Maiden, North Carolina will use SunPower panels, according to the San Jose Mercury News reporter Dana Hull, who made the discovery within an 18-page filing with the North Carolina Utilities Commission. Considering Apple has described the project as the nation's largest end user-owned onsite solar array, this is a huge score for SunPower. And for its majority owner, French oil company Total.

Last month, Apple's environmental footprint report revealed a few details about the solar farm, which will be built on 100 acres adjacent to the data center. The report didn't identify the solar panel supplier.

According to the recent filing with regulators, the installations will use SunPower E20 435-watt photovoltaic modules on ground-mounted single axis tracking systems. The solar farm will be built in phases and will include at least 14 photovoltaic installations. It could begin delivering electricity to the grid as early as October, reported Hull.

Solar won't be the only renewable energy powering the Maiden data center. According to the environmental report, Apple is building a 5-megawatt fuel cell installation as well. The fuel cell installation is scheduled to come online later this year and will be powered by 100 percent biogas. The report didn't name the fuel cell power provider. Gigaom's Katie Fehrenbacher has since reported that according to sources, Bloom Energy would supply the fuel cell systems. Apple hasn't publicly commented on any deal.

As large as the solar farm will be, it won't supply all of the data center's power needs. Greenpeace estimates the 500,000-square-foot data center would require 100 megawatts of power if fully operational. The group says about 10 percent of the data center's power will come from clean energy sources and the remainder will come from local utility Duke Energy. Nearly three-fifths of electricity generated in North Carolina comes from coal and about one-third comes from nuclear, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Photo: SunPower (solar installation in Goodyear, Ariz.)

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Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure