Analyst: 170-acre solar farm, ‘mothership’ campus to push Apple expenses to $8 billion in 2012

“Apple expects to increase its capital expenditures 73 percent year over year in fiscal 2012,” Katie Marsal reports for AppleInsider. “That will bring its projected expenses to $8 billion, significantly higher than the $1.2 billion the company projected back in 2009.”

“UBS analyst Maynard Um believes that a significant chunk of Apple’s spending increase will be related to new construction projects the company is planning,” Marsal reports. “For example, last week it was revealed that the company is planning to build a solar farm across from its massive data center in Maiden, N.C.”

Marsal reports, “Apple’s solar farm will be placed on 171 acres of vacant land on Startown Road. It will power the $1 billion data center that opened earlier this year and helps to power Apple’s online services, including iCloud and iTunes… Another major upcoming project for Apple that Um believes will contribute to increased expenses in 2012 is the company’s new 13,000-employee campus in Cupertino. Work on the campus… is expected to begin in 2012, in preparation for an opening in 2015.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Lynn Weiler” for the heads up.]

29 Comments

    1. Given the number of days that sunshine is available to Maiden, NC and the number of cloudy days when sunshine is available it works out that plant efficiency will be less than 20% in the year. Out of the days when sunshine is available photovoltaic cell technology will return an efficiency of about 15%, you can see that it makes very little financial sense to put a solar farm in NC.

      Weather conditions in Maiden can be found here:
      http://www.city-data.com/city/Maiden-North-Carolina.html

      PV efficiency can be found here:
      http://inventors.about.com/od/pstartinventions/ss/photovoltic_cel_9.htm

      1. Of course, your conclusion that the solar farm “makes little sense” is useless because you’re leaving out a bunch of critical information… Like, how much will Apple pay for the alternative? Next year? Five years from now? Ten years from now? The solar costs will be relatively fixed.

        Besides, not all decisions boil down to a simple ROI equation.

        Will the solar likely be more expensive than burning coal? Yes. Will it be worth it in the long-term for a giant datacenter facility with massive power consumption to shift some of its consumption over to a non-coal-burning power source? Maybe. Will Apple get massive marketing mileage and admiration for being a leader in greening a giant power-consuming facility? Absolutely.

      2. Oh, and one more thing… From this article:
        http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/31/idUS401857373720111031

        “Apple has a handful of facilities that run completely on renewable energy: in Austin, Texas; Sacramento, California; and Cork, Ireland. It says it uses state-of-the-art digital controls, high-efficiency mechanical equipment, and monitoring technology.”

        Personally, if I was relatively certain I was in a long-term position in a piece of property, I’d definitely be interested in PV. So it takes 15 years to pay off. Big deal. In the meantime, I cut my (average) grid consumption to almost zero over the course of the year. I’d love to do that if I could afford the upfront investment. I can’t, but Apple can.

  1. That “solar farm” will never amount to more than a power supplement to the grid. (Or has Apple developed some magical means of storing generated power for off-peak and nighttime hours?) Aside from wanting to look “green”, I suspect Apple is taking advantage of preferential energy tariffs that pay the producer of “renewable” energy at rates higher than the power company charges the consumer – all to meet foolish mandates established by know-nothing legislators.

    1. At least it’ll actually generate power consistently during daylight hours. Unlike your average windfarm, for example. And of course it’s a supplement to the grid, only a total fuckwit, and we have many of those over here, imagine that all our power requirements can be met by wind and solar.

      1. When has anyone claimed that renewable energy sources “all our power requirements can be met by wind and solar”? Even the staunchest proponents of such sources of energy would make that claim.

        I’m also enjoying the fact that readers believe that they, with simply their own biases, can have a better understanding of the situation than Apple. Apple tends to do their homework and, I’m reasonably sure, is not approaching this with anything other than their own economic bottom line in mind.

    1. TOTAL expenditures, not 8 billion on one solar farm, dufus. Did the analyst happen to break down the costs? no , because he is only speculating. How much of this is related to the mothership headquarters they are going to build. Im not sure how large the solar farm is going to be, but there is no way this tops 1 billion in cost. You can get 1.6MW for 11-12 million.
      @Raymond, you need a basic course on grid-connected solar. You dont store the electricity in batteries, you consume it as it is being generated or you feed it back into the grid, essentially selling the surplus back to the power company. This reduces their load, enabling them to cut back amount they need to generate. The less coal, Gas, or whatever the utilities are using to create the electricity cuts back on the pollution they generate. But I bet they will be using all the power they generate since servers are on 24/7, unlike something like an office building where people are only there 8-10 hours a day.

    2. Because North Carolina uses a lot of coal to generate their electricity. Of course Maiden is about 17 miles from Lake Norman where they have a tandem Nuclear and Hydroelectric generating facilities. I see no mention of the type of solar power to be generated. It could be a solar furnace type like they use in Spain and proposed in Nevada or it could be photovoltaic. If it is photovoltaic we don’t know if it will be tracking arrays or fixed arrays and if if they will be standard polycrystalline cells or high efficiency cell that have been in the lab for about a decade now. We also have no details as to wether the solar plant will be backed up by mechanical batteries and possibly combined with wind generators. So any comments about efficiencies woul be premature at this stage of the game. Apple didn’t ghetto it’s current position by making dumb moves, bad purchases and dumb choices.

  2. I bet Tim Cook is really kicking himself that he didn’t seek the expertise of MDN readers before launching into this investment. So much expertise, wasted…

  3. I get a kick out of these replies from people who claim that since solar energy cannot provide a perfect solution to fossil fuels, it should be abandoned altogether. That’s like saying that the Apple II+ never should have been built because it didn’t run Photoshop 11. All things have a beginning and it’s astoundingly short sighted to bash some technology that is new and subject to evolutionary development. Solar and Wind will improve in efficiency as they are developed and, most importantly, used in real world circumstances. I would rather support these renewable technologies rather than narrowly focus on oil and coal, because one day fossil fuels will run out – the sun and wind will not.

  4. Can’t put a wind farm on 171 acres…ever been to Texas? It would take thousands of acres…getting some wind at night would just balance the lack of wind on some NC days.

  5. Geothermal heating and cooling is available almost everywhere on the continent. Geothermal power generation is possible in many places as well.

    This is something real, cheap and cost efficient.

    Why is it so under-utilized?

    1. Location, location, location, I suspect there aren’t many hot springs near Maiden NC so you would probably have to drill down about 5 miles to get the appropriate heat, also underground aquifers may be in the way.

  6. People are quick to mention how much more something is going to cost. But, they forget to mention how much the additional investment is actually going to save the company in the future, had they not made the investment in the first place. Just another example of the media spreading hype and not giving the complete story from a neutral point of view.

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