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Apple to co-develop 80 million kWh p/a solar energy projects in China

Thu 16 Apr 2015

Apple Inc. will partner with Silicon Valley-based solar energy experts SunPower to develop two massive solar energy farms in the Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture (aka Ngaba or Aba).

The projects are currently under construction, and comprise Ruoergai Huanju Ecological Energy Co., Ltd. (Zioge) in Ruoergai County and Hongyuan Huanju Ecological Energy Co., Ltd in Hongyuan County. The Hongyuan plant is already contributing 2MW to the region’s grid via the SunPower Low Concentration Photovoltaic System Performance (LPTV) tracker.

The two projects, the first solar initiatives in the Aba region and expected to be completed by the end of this year, are intended to furnish 80 million kWh annually with minimal impact on the surrounding ecosystem, and will utilise SunPower’s ‘Light on Land’ [PDF] approach, which seeks to build on previously disturbed land such as rangeland, brownfield or fringe agricultural acreage, under strict land management practices.


In an official release by the company SunPower president and CEO Tom Werner said “This is a tremendous groundbreaking collaboration, bringing together a diverse group of experienced partners from different parts of the globe to build renewable solar energy ventures that contribute to the local economy and the environment. Our unique, existing partnerships in China allowed for these projects to come to fruition quickly,” Werner added that the new projects would provide clean renewable energy to the region – in itself a challenge for geographical reasons – whilst protecting the Aba landscape and allowing farming to continue.


The set-up of the solar plants uses single-axis tracking technology to aim reflected light from ranks of parabolic mirrors onto SunPower’s Maxeon cells [PDF] – currently the most efficient non-research cells in the world.

In January of this year approval was given for Apple to build a 2,900 acre solar farm for its new ring-shaped headquarters in Cupertino, with the company devoting a committed $848 million (£569 million) to its solar energy project. The 25-year commitment with semiconductor and photovoltaic manufacturing company First Solar was lauded as the solar industry’s largest ever commercial agreement.

In 2013 Apple committed $1 billion to develop an 18-20MW solar farm on 167 acres in northern Nevada, intended to provide 43.5mn kWh to the Sierra Pacific Power grid in order to power an Apple data centre in Reno. Additionally Apple has pursued solar energy projects – usually concerned with data centre plants – in North Carolina and in Mesa, Arizona.


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