by Briton Lee
In February 2015, Apple announced at an investors’ conference that it has moved to build a solar farm in Monterey County to power all of its operations in California, including headquarters, data centers, and stores. This agreement with the largest U.S. developer of solar farms, First Solar, is the largest investment in solar power ever by a non-utility company. The projected amount of energy that can be obtained from this solar farm is 130 megawatts, which could be used to power 60,000 homes (Randall 2015). Since its rating as the worst tech offender by Greenpeace in 2011, Apple has made good on its decisions to improve its environmental footprint (Levy 2014). CEO Tim Cook hired the previous Administrator of the U.S. EPA, Lisa P. Jackson, as its Vice President of Environmental Initiatives in 2013, a move integral to its improvement (Levy 2014). The title ‘Environmental Initiatives’ underlines the fact that Apple wants to be a company leading the efforts in being environmentally conscious. Cook notes that he wants to inspire other major tech companies to be more cognizant of their environmental impact (Chen 2015). In fact, other tech giants are recognizing the reality of climate change, with Google, Microsoft, and Amazon all having large investments in wind power. However, it is not so easy to paint these tech companies as altruistic; the “halo effect” of appearing environmentally conscious translates directly into profits, as evidenced by the fact that immediately after announcement of the investment, Apple became the first U.S. company to end the trading day with assets over $700 billion. Additionally, the agreement should lead to completion of the project by the end of 2016, which is just in time to take advantage of a 30% tax credit (Randall 2015). This is not to say that such reasons for investment in renewable energy is bad, and incentivizing green energy by making it economically profitable may be a strong way to work toward a truly sustainable future.
Randall, Tom. 2015. Bloomberg Business. “What Apple Just Did in Solar Is a Really Big Deal”. (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-02-11/what-apple-just-did-in-solar-is-a-really-big-deal)
Levy, Steven. 2014. Wired. “Apple Aims to Shrink Its Carbon Footprint With New Data Centers”. (http://www.wired.com/2014/04/green-apple/)
Chen, Brian. 2015. New York Times. “Apple Building Solar Farm to Power California Operations”. (http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/02/10/apple-to-build-california-solar-farm/?_r=1)