Clean energy deals are becoming increasingly good financial bets for global corporations, while demonstrating their commitment to fighting climate change.
Recently, Apple announced plans to spend nearly $2 billion on European data centers set to run entirely on renewable energy, and invested $848 million to secure power from 130MW of First Solar’s California Flats Solar Project under a 25-year power purchase agreement. Google also agreed to replace 370 wind turbines installed in the 1980s with 24 new, more efficient and bird-friendly turbines at the Altamont Pass in the San Francisco Bay Area. Moreover, there has been recent speculation Apple may be working on an electric vehicle to challenge Tesla’s dominance in that market. These developments are impressive on their own, but they are also part of a new trend among major corporations – whose primary focus is not energy generation – proactively pursuing clean energy projects. So, why are they doing this? For corporations whose businesses do not rely on fossil fuels, aligning themselves with clean power is proving a prudent move both financially and for public relations.
Clean power portfolios
Of companies whose primary operations do not focus on power generation, Google is one of the most proactive in the world in terms of generating, using, and financing clean power. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s (BNEF) database, its activities include:
- Ownership of three solar plants that amount to 412.3MW of net capacity, roughly equivalent to removing 100,000 passenger vehicles from the road for a year;
- Usage of electricity from wind farms that amount to 1,603MW of capacity, roughly equivalent to removing 713,000 passenger vehicles from the road for a year;
- Financing of nearly $2.9 billion in clean power projects;
- Acquisition of Nest Labs, Inc., which sells smart thermostats, primarily, and also smoke detectors;
- A public goal to operate on 100 percent renewable energy (Google currently powers about 35 percent of its operations with renewable energy).
Also proactive, Apple’s activity regarding clean energy includes:
- Ownership of four solar plants that amount to 77.5MW of net capacity;
- Powering all of its data centers with renewables;
- Installation of a 10MW fuel cell system – which uses a chemical reaction, rather than combustion, to produce electricity on-site – at a North Carolina-based data center;
- The launch of HomeKit, an app enabling homeowners to control appliances such as thermostats, security systems, lights, and others on Apple devices (iPhone, iPad, etc.) remotely;
- Plans for a completely energy self-sufficient headquarters by 2016.
Outside of tech, Wal-Mart and other non-power companies are proactively pursuing clean energy. Wal-Mart owns and/or uses electricity from solar and wind plants that amount to upwards of 380MW of capacity. By 2020, the company aims to be powered 100 percent by renewable sources >>>