Apple and other large tech firms can help power the switch to renewable energy

“Apple doesn’t use any coal-powered energy at all,” Leander Kahney writes for Wired. “In April, the company announced that its entire worldwide operation ran on 100 percent renewable energy, including hundreds of retail stores, dozens of data centres and its huge campus in Cupertino, which has one of the world’s largest rooftop solar arrays.”

“Apple is far from alone. Combined with Facebook, Google, Microsoft and dozens of other big cloud-computing companies, the IT sector is buying so much renewable energy that it reshaping the entire sector,” Kahney writes. “It’s a big reason solar and wind have become so competitive. And in 2019, that trend will only accelerate.”

“To date, about 20 of the biggest IT companies have made commitments to becoming 100 percent renewable… Other companies are starting to follow suit. Giants such as Ford, General Motors, Procter & Gamble, Kimberly-Clark, Mars, Spring, Walmart and many others have all made commitments to renewable energy,” Kahney writes. “Next year IT will continue to lead the way. Apple has committed to switching its vast Asian supply chain to renewables, and is getting strong commitments from suppliers such as Foxconn.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Kudos to Apple for leading the way for the company’s many, many followers yet again!

For more on Apple’s environmental initiatives, visit apple.com/environment.

SEE ALSO:
Apple launches $300 million China Clean Energy Fund – July 13, 2018
Apple paves the way for breakthrough carbon-free aluminum smelting method – May 10, 2018
Apple now globally powered by 100 percent renewable energy – April 9, 2018
Apple to stick with environmental pledges despite President Trump’s gutting of Obama’s climate change orders – March 30, 2017
State-of-the-art floating solar island brings Apple’s clean energy program to Japan – March 8, 2017
Greenpeace: Apple again the world’s most environmentally friendly tech company – January 10, 2017
Apple continues supply chain transparency as Trump administration considers suspending conflict mineral requirements – March 27, 2017
Apple announces environmental progress in China; applauds supplier commitment to clean energy – August 17, 2016
Apple VP Jackson visits ‘solar mamas’ in Rajasthan – May 19, 2016
Apple will run all its operations in Singapore on solar power – November 17, 2015
Greenpeace: Apple is tech’s greenest – May 15, 2015
Greenpeace: Apple leading the way in creating a greener, more sustainable internet – April 2, 2014
Greenpeace praises Apple for reducing use of conflict minerals – February 13, 2014

32 Comments

  1. Solar and wind energy are NOT efficient nor reliable energy sources, and are also VERY expensive. Nuclear energy for now, is the way to go. Anyone who denies this is living a fairy tale.

    1. Exactly.
      For any foreseeable future, the heat energy is most efficient. Much touted solar energy is good for the home roof but not at all efficient, and most inappropriate DC source to connect to the grid. It’s a concept driven by solar panel mfrs. If/when the share of the solar power becomes even moderately large, it makes the transmission grid very unstable and vulnerable to large trips.
      From a former unclear changeneer….

    2. I’ll gladly second that. The exorbitant cost same as organic food puts it out of reach for just about everyone except billion dollar companies and mega millionaires. When the cost is sensible for the average household, certainly the change will be welcome…

      1. What a fine way to change the subject.

        It’s YOU who refuses to see the long term costs (and cost transfers) that the junk food industry and the fossil fuel industry have successfully transferred to the willfully ignorant.

        As the natural gas boom levels off and dead-end tech like coal and nuclear continue their downward spiral, renewables ARE economically picking up the slack.

        According to the EIA, more renewables will be added to the grid in 2019 than fossil fuel electricity.

        https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2019/01/after-a-boom-year-for-new-natural-gas-plants-renewables-set-to-retake-the-lead/

        Two nuclear plants are permanently going offline: Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in MA and Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Station in PA — perhaps you have heard of it? Gosh, I wonder what costs taxpayers have spent and continue to spend on those plants ??????

    3. So, the existing Apple plant in Austin is a fairy tale, as will be the new plant a few miles away, and the City of Georgetown less than 20 miles away. All of them rely on 100% renewable sources.

      https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-us-canada-46628832/the-texas-town-running-on-renewables

      The Georgetown Electric Utility is delivering reliable power to its residential and commercial customers at a lower cost than the surrounding systems that rely entirely on nonrenewable fuels. It generates more cheap electricity from solar and wind than the city consumes. Selling the surplus helps drive the cost down even further.

      Yes, the system does have to buy power from the network operated by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas when demand exceeds supply. So what? Every utility does that. There are still more kilowatts being generated from renewables than are consumed in Georgetown. Despite some desperate claims, the City has never misled anybody about the need for backup sources.

      So yes, there does need to be sufficient capacity in the ERCOT network to cover dark windless nights, but those backup plants are not consuming fuel and generating stack gas unless they are needed. Georgetown is reducing the CO2 and other pollutants that would otherwise be produced to power the city by 100%.

      Georgetown is not populated by “billion dollar companies and mega millionaires.” Because there are several large retirement communities (Sun City Texas, for one), the local demographic has considerably more than the national average of people on fixed incomes. If this were an expensive liberal boondoggle, all the retired corporate executives would be screaming to high heaven. As far as I can tell, the local Republicans are quite happy with the situation.

      1. I can’t teach you reading comprehension because of the liberal tone deaf blockage.

        I repeat, “The exorbitant cost same as organic food puts it out of reach for just about everyone except billion dollar companies and mega millionaires. When the cost is sensible for the average household, certainly the change will be welcome…”

        I cannot envision local pizza parlors and taco shops in New England right now running on expensive renewable energy anytime soon. What a green activist pipe dream not rooted in reality and common sense.

        Efficient and cost effective nuclear energy is the answer…

        1. You “cannot envision local pizza parlors and taco shops in New England right now running on expensive renewable energy anytime soon.” I cannot help your lack of imagination or your inability to see actual facts on the ground,

          Let’s take Vermont as an example. According to the US Energy Information Administration, that New England state produces 40% of the electricity it consumes, almost entirely from renewable resources, with more than half of it from hydroelectric power. Most of the rest is imported hydropower. NONE comes from coal. In the years 2011 through 2017, 74.2 megawatts of utility-scale solar photovoltaic capacity and 89 megawatts of small-scale PV capacity were installed in Vermont.

          Next door in the “Live Free or Die” state, New Hampshire obtained more of its electricity generation from wind power than from coal-fired power plants for the first time in 2016, and that trend has continued. Less than a third of their power comes from fossil fuels.

          So, yes, pizza parlors and taco shops in New England are right now running on renewable energy. As I described above, EVERY pizza parlor and taco shop in a Texas city with well over 70,000 people on its electric grid is running on renewable energy right now.

          They aren’t using green power because they are liberal activists who have turned their backs on reality and common sense. They are using renewable electricity because it is cheap and true conservatives value their pocketbooks.

    4. @ Yankee Doodle:

      Germany has proven you wrong. 40% of Germany’s power is from truly renewable energy (wind and solar), increasing every year. Germany has closed its last coal mine and plans to decommission its last nuclear plant in 2022. If Germany, a nation with unspectacular wind and solar exposure, can economically employ renewable wind and solar energy, why can’t your country?

      https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/01/renewables-led-by-wind-provided-more-power-than-coal-in-germany-in-2018/

      In your lifetime, the most common means of new electricity generation will likely be: 1) natural gas, 2) solar, 3) wind power, and 4) other renewables including biomass, tidal, or hydro.

      “clean coal” does not exist. When you account for the healthcare costs and acid rain directly attributable to coal pollution, you will quickly see that it is as bad a deal as nuclear.

      Nuclear power is not cost effective or renewable, it has the massive drawback of requiring unlimited security costs to guard the spent nuclear fuel. Have you bothered to look at the true costs of nuclear? The problem is that the fat fossil fuel and nuclear propagandists love to sell you half of the accounting, externalizing all the drawbacks to taxpayers and selling a rosy picture of building and maintenance costs only. Whenever you see the financial projections on nuclear, do you see the military costs for manning a militarized bunker guarding the spent fuel depot for eternity? According to the US GAO, nuclear waste is accumulating at 80 sites in the USA, expected to be 153,000 tons by 2055. The US DOE projects the cost to safely dispose this material into a secure repository (remember Yucca ain’t operational yet!) will be at least $41 billion plus about $500 million/year operations, with wild guesstimates all over the map for all the possible contingencies. Do you think nuclear powerplant operators are ready and willing to pay the full bill to get Yucca Mountain online and secure?

    5. Oh dear, Yankee is speechless.

      Perhaps this will brighten his day even more:

      “More U.S. coal-fired power plants were shut in President Donald Trump’s first two years than were retired in the whole of Barack Obama’s first term, despite the Republican’s efforts to prop up the industry to keep a campaign promise to coal-mining states.”

      https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-coal/president-trump-cant-stop-u-s-coal-plants-from-retiring-idUSKCN1P80BY

      Turns out that puppet president Trump can’t make coal more economical than renewables no matter how hard he tries. Boo Hoo. Maybe the USA should get on with making money off of clean energy, and export that around the world instead of acid rain fuel.

  2. Real energy and “renewable energy” are not the same. Renewable energy requires and equal amount of real energy (coal, natural gas, nuclear or hydro) to be built for every unit of “renewable” that is put on the grid, since solar and wind are unreliable, by definition.

    Second, the best sources are carbon based energy (and there is nothing wrong with carbon and much right with it) and nuclear. These are the most cost-effective energy options. Even now, electric car enthusiasts are screaming about the possibility that their huge subsidies will come to an end after decades of failed efforts to make electric cars competitive.

    1. Yes, nuclear energy is the best. It also has scale merit, very large, the lowest cent/kw by far. The problem is the perception of disaster. But Fukushima incident, for example, was a one in 1000 years misfortune but everything is judged by it, unfortunately. The rate of the large accident that concerns the contamination is almost nil. But like an aircraft crash, it seldom happens if ever, but when it does happen, most everybody dies. But it does not discourage us from taking a flight.

  3. This claim is only possible due to the outsourcing of their entire manufacturing process. Give us a ring when they are smelting and machining all their aluminum using solar.

    1. Most aluminum smelters ARE “solar” powered. It’s uneconomic to burn coal for aluminum processing. Most plants rely on clean renewable and cheap hydroelectric power, which as you know relies on the sun’s energy to create the conditions necessary for filling reservoirs FREE.

      Of course with you yahoos with your heads in the sand demanding to burn the remaining fossil fuels as fast as possible, desertification may very well kill off some of the most productive watersheds. The Sahara wasn’t always a desert. Thank mankind’s horrid stewardship of the planet for the increasing number of deserts.

      1. You are wrong. Aluminum smelters are powered of the electric grid, which is about 85% coal, natural gas and nuclear with some hydro thrown in.

        Solar would never power this industry because it is not available most of the time.

        You have your head up your ass.

      2. Aluminum smelter powered by solar electricity? Maybe their illuminations, but an al smelting is one of the most power hungry industries. They usually use large electric furnaces and for that reason, usually located near or right next to the power station (hydro or fossil burner). BTW, I do not agree with consuming fossil fuel (limited resources) by burning it, but today’s power station is very efficient. And the nuclear power plant does not burn anything hence no CO2 emission and it’s regenerative as the uranium fuel turns into plutonium as it is consumed which becomes new fuel after reprocessing. Anyway, solar/wind have their own place but not at all practical for today’s large scale industries. But it does have a beautiful sound bite.

      3. kent and KenT.

        You are both being deliberately dense. He didn’t say that aluminum smelters can be exclusively powered by solar cells. He said that most of them are already powered by renewable sources. If you look at where the smelters are located, the site is dictated by the availability of cheap electricity, which generally means hydropower.

        We used to have an Alcoa plant at Rockdale here in Central Texas. The coal was mined and the electricity generated right on site, but not even that allowed the plant to remain economically viable compared to sites with cheaper, cleaner, power and better access to raw materials.

        Dubai Aluminium has a plant in the middle of a gas field, but they are still exploring the use of solar to cut their costs and emissions.

        1. Haha, you are right. I was diagonally looking at Kent’s post and agreeing with it. But RACIMR’s post was just as confusing. He said most smelters are powered by solar. Then correctly said mostly use cheap hydro power, Then seemed to be saying the “pumped storage” hydro is powered by the sun’s energy or some such. In any case, I was busy and perhaps misinterpreted some things. Time to digress:-)

        2. BTW, solar might begin to make some sense when the land is wide and cheap (desert), sunlight is plentiful and used only as a supplement. If anything will help is the principle…..
          Interesting though

  4. With clean renewable and hydroelectric power the wave of the future, my hopes for our planet’s survival thriving have begun to lift a bit. We may be able to move to Mars if things don’t pan out! 🙂

  5. The issue for me is that with continually increasing demands on power companies – and their turbines. I believe that there is a certain level of benefit for power companies to have 25% or more home customers with solar power – especially in the summer when the demands on those turbines reach a peak. Lowering demands on the turbines by that 25% will significantly lower costs of fuel, lowering risks of brownouts from equipment failures and lowering maintenance demands. The summer benefit alone would be pretty significant. Other countries and states (like Western Australia) are years ahead of the US. In Oklahoma there its a “solar/wind tax” where individuals pay the “tax” to the power company. Obviously this is from a GOP State Legislature and a Dumb Broad of a Republican Governor and I bet they got some big kickbacks from the power company.

  6. 1st question: Does Apple get 100% of their renewable power from either solar panels directly over all of their properties (during the day) and from windmills to pick up the slack when the sun isn’t shining? If the answer is yes, how come I haven’t seen any windmills over Apple stores?

    2nd question:
    Does Apple buy renewable power from power generated far away? If so, how do the ‘green’ electrons get channeled directly into their stores and what technology exists to block the ‘bad’ fossil fuel generated electrons?

    Here’s my take. I think Apple is full of shit. They connect to the grid like everybody else then virtual signal by saying they buy green power.
    But I believe they are using the same power as most everybody else (except in cases where they have both solar panels and wind mills over their stores or buildings where they can get the 24/7/365 power needs they require… which I doubt they have).

    1. Here’s how it works: Let us say that Apple (or Georgetown, or any other renewables user) has the demand for 100 megawatts of electricity. If they just bought it from the local power company, it would require the utility to burn enough coal or natural gas to generate 100 megawatts, which would also generate a bunch of stack gasses.

      So, Apple (or whoever) builds or leases 100 megawatts worth of green generation… wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, or whatever. They put that power onto the regional interconnect network at the point of generation and they take it off at the point of consumption—which is exactly how every other power producer operates. Here in Texas, most wind and solar is generated out west and consumed back east where most people work and live.

      It doesn’t matter where any given electron comes from, any more than it matters which municipal water source provided each drop at your tap. Electrons, like water drops, are all identical. You push one into the pipe at one end and take one off at the other end. With electricity, the “pipes” can stretch from Grand Coulee Dam to San Diego, 1300 miles… or longer.

      Apple’s demand rises and falls over time (it takes more AC on hot days and more lights on overcast days, for example). Similarly wind and solar supplies rise and fall according to weather conditions. Sometimes Apple is generating more power than it is consuming, so it sells that power to other users on the network. Sometimes it is consuming more than it is generating, so it buys the extra power from other suppliers. Again, that doesn’t matter, since all electrons are identical. What matters is that Apple is generating more of them over the course of a year than it is consuming.

      With this setup, there is no need for the power company to generate any of the 100 megawatts of non-renewable electricity that Apple would otherwise consume. None of that coal or gas needs to be burned and none of the stack gasses are produced. There are network balancing issues, but those are less troublesome than the problems associated with expanded use of fossil fuels.

    2. To answer your question, generally, regardless of how the electrical power is generated, they are all connected to a transmission network often called grid. Obviously, you can’t tell which power source or generating stations the power is coming from. Electrical power generated is raised to a very high voltage to reduce transmission loss (usually a thermal loss to heat up the transmission cable), and as they are transmitted close to the consumption area, it is gradually reduced to the much lower voltage for industrial and home use etc. Also, utility companies divide their coverage area into many smaller sectional areas to contain the power failure to each small section, hence “grid”. Therefore, say a transformer blew in one section, it will instantly isolate it and equalize the distribution with others so no power failure occurs. But if a large solar power station was built near an urban centre (an unlikely scenario), you can theoretically say that some power might be drawn from that station but only in theory. Electrical power, once connected to the transmission network, has no local distinctions except that local grid divided by the utility company.
      Re Apple, I do not have any specific data and numbers, but just looking at it, it is a typical rooftop solar system and does not look like it is self-sufficient and produces much power, certainly not 100mw system etc. Off the top of my head, it looks like a 10 to 20mw at most, as the solar panel has the lowest power density (kw/unit area). I do not know the actual power requirement of the Spaceship Campus but that rooftop system does not look sufficient to drive large HVAC compressors and fans which requires enormous power which I am sure is supplied by the local utility company. When the total power requirements including the HVAC is considered, those rooftop solar panels look barely enough to provide power only for lighting, some computer equipment inside etc but probably not enough to supply total daytime peak requirement.
      But then, I vaguely remember from the presentation made by Steve Jobs to the city of Cupertino, the whole campus was designed as an ultra power efficient building. Apple has utilized all sorts of currently available tricks to save energy. It has a giant natural air circulation system to cool the building in the daytime. I do not know if they need a supplemental cooling capacity.
      In any case, I am almost certain that that solar power system, from the look of it, was installed more for an economic reason than environmental.
      But we have to admire them for attempting to use the minimum energy, which by definition is eco-friendly.
      To answer your question directly, there is no way that rooftop solar power system generates enough power for the daytime peak load of the entire campus. Far from the self-sufficiency. I am sure they are buying some power from the local grid. But then, I do not know the factual data such as the power requirement and their power generation capacity etc, but my view should not be too far from the truth (hopefully).

        1. I should not be stuck in this subject for too long, boring other people.
          But I thought we are addressing the question raised by Kramer, and as I understood it, he was referring almost exclusively to the “localized” Spaceship situation, nothing global or the solar power biz in general.
          But you do realize that this sudden surge of the solar biz was almost entirely motivated by the various levels/localities/nations of the governments stemmed from this global warming stuff. More specifically, the crux of the matter is the fact that these governments “mandated” the utility companies to buy up powers generated by private and independent power generators at a “guaranteed price” supposedly to promote more green energy. Once this happened, it suddenly became such excellent biz opportunities with the “guaranteed profits”, as long as the owner/operators have an ability to secure large empty lands and purchase solar panels at the cheapest price. Apple is no exception to this bandwagon. It generates a guaranteed profit and makes the company look so eco-friendly. But I bet Apple is doing this purely for the profit reason, like any other participants in this new industry. But the utility companies strongly resisted to this ignorant move by the politicians. Firstly, the mandated purchase of the products at the guaranteed price goes against the free market principle. Secondly, there are so many technical issues surrounding the connection of solar power to the grid. Utilities are happy if businesses built those solar power plant to alleviate their own power requirements. If it is such a good business for the guaranteed profit, why then are these utility companies are not doing it by and for themselves? They don’t because it’s far more than economy and gas emission issues. Rather than the money spent on the mandated purchase of so-called clean energy, they rather want to invest that money in the system to reduce the CO2 emmission, and they have been making great progress. Too bad nuclear plant options were halted, as they do not emit harmful gas (well a tiny bit at micron level). It is super economical. They are large (today, the average size of the new nuclear-powered plant is more than 1400mw per plant) and the fuel is regenerative.
          Anyway, good for Apple’s global solar plant biz, but so is for the whole other participants. I am not against dealing with the global warming issue as long as the mankind “burns” fossil fuel. But politicians have some other considerations and obviously not listening to the other side of the issue raised by the scientists and engineers.

  7. I do not want to deviate too much from the subject but Apple has a tendency (under Cook) to exaggerate things that they do not quite deserve. I would say it’s borderline deceitful. Relating to “renewable” etc., Apple first started emphasizing it on things like a packaging material such as cardboard box which has been recycled for years and it’s not just Apple who was using the packaging using recycled paper. Then aluminum enclosure for example, even as recent as the announcement of new Mac mini, it was loudly emphasized that it was made of the recycled aluminum, and those claqueurs in the front seats enthusiastically clap their hand. A big deal! Today, who else won’t use the recycle aluminum instead of the virgin aluminum for things like common enclosures etc?
    And talking about the solar power, as I said elsewhere, it is OK for home use with batteries or may be for industrial lighting purpose etc., but if it’s share goes up close to say 15% in the total power on the grid, it’s a real problem. If any surge happened in the grid, those fixed voltage systems cannot stay on the grid while huge turbine generators have the tremendous inertial moment and can easily ride out dips and spikes of the grid fluctuation. But when the solar connections trip and drop from the grid, it creates a huge surge even T/G’s cannot cope with. That’s why power companies hate solar power. Also, there is another big problem. Here in Ontario, many farmers are having difficulty to continue their generations of farming because of lack of labors (their sons an daughters). So what do they do? They sell a huge chunk of their very fertile land to the solar power operators who usually have a Chinese component as they are by far the largest supplier of the solar panel in the world. As a result, farmers are happy by taking a small share of the JV but leaving a tremendous eyesore of the humongous area of solar panels right in the middle of the farming villages and still expanding. Usually, the governments encourage these operators to invest in more solars for the very reason of so-called “clean energy” image but they are politicians and do not necessarily understand the long-term consequences. Enough of it, but I do not trust Apple’s loud claim of renewable energy and recycled materials etc. at face value (sorry Apple). Who else in the tech industry, who are equally clean conscious loudly broadcast their effort? Or is Apple emphasizing this sort of things too loudly because of the CEO’s SJW stance? They are doing the right things but it became their habit of overemphasizing their clean and environmentally conscious mind etc. Enough of it….

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