Apple makes California solar deal

Electronics manufacturer Apple has announced an $848 million deal to buy electricity from a solar energy project to be developed in California. Project developer First Solar has described the power purchase agreement as "the largest agreement in the industry to provide clean energy to a commercial end user."

Solar photovoltaic panels in the Utah desert.

Earlier this week, Apple announced the deal with First Solar, Inc., to buy power from First Solar's California Flats Solar Project in Monterey County, California. Under a 25-year power purchase agreement or PPA, Apple will buy the equivalent of 130 megawatts of the solar project's output.

First Solar is a vertically-integrated solar company, manufacturing solar photovoltaic panels, developing utility-scale photovoltaic power plants, and providing solar project support services. First Solar boasts involvement with over 10 gigawatts of installed solar photovoltaic capacity worldwide. Its resume includes the 550-megawatt Topaz Solar project in California and the 290-megawatt Agua Caliente project, which was once the world's largest operating solar energy project.

First Solar's California Flats Solar Project will occupy a 2,900-acre site on the Jack Ranch in Cholame, California. Owned by Hearst Corporation, the project site was formerly a dryland farm, and occupies about 3% of the Jack Ranch property. First Solar expects to begin construction later this year, and to complete the project by the end of 2016.

With a total project capacity of 280 megawatts, Apple's 130-megawatt commitment covers about 46% of the project's output. The project's remaining 150 megawatts will be sold to utility Pacific Gas & Electric under a separate long-term PPA.

Apple has developed other renewable energy projects, including fuel cells and solar panels at its Maiden, North Carolina data center. Other high-tech companies have also made significant investments in renewable energy, including Google's commitment of over $1.5 billion to solar and wind projects through power purchase agreements and direct investments.