Adding to its long list of forward thinking initiatives, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has made a considerable effort to make its energy resources green. The company owns at least 60 megawatts of solar plants built by SunPower (NASDAQ:SPWR), is contracted with First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) to buy $848 million of solar electricity over 25 years, and is now committing to a plan to build two gigawats of renewable energy in China.
To put that impact into perspective, that's enough energy to power 328,000 average U.S. homes. When completed, Apple will likely have the largest network of supply chain renewable energy in the world.
Apple's green plan
On Wednesday October 21, 2015, Apple announced a plan to build 200 megawatts of solar projects in China. Forty megawatts are already in the ground, built through SunPower's joint venture in China, and supplied enough energy to power all of Apple's offices and retail stores in the country.
It's not yet known who will build or supply equipment for the rest of the projects, but with SunPower as a partner for Apple's company owned projects in North Carolina and Nevada along with the China projects I think they're a safe bet.
Foxconn will also chip in with 400 megawatts of solar by 2018. It's not yet clear who will build the other 1.4 gigawatts needed to hit the two gigawatt plan, but it is clear that Apple is pushing forward in green energy and it's taking suppliers along with it.
Going green is an Apple strategy
Solar energy isn't just a publicity stunt for Apple, it's part of the company's long-term strategy. The company's data centers have made solar energy a staple and other renewable sources of energy augment power as well.
This provides Apple with predictable energy costs decades into the future and a secure source of energy for its operations. Apple hasn't gotten to the point where it's building independent microgrids for data centers, but I could see that in the future.
It's also a way for the company to get out ahead of environmental issues, something it's struggled with in the past. The company has made a big effort to take toxic chemicals out of its products, now it's trying to make operations greener before it gets pressure from consumers to do so.
With renewable energy being cost effective in much of the world there's no added cost to going green, just the benefit of not having to worry about environmental pressures in the future.
Will solar energy be an even bigger part of Apple?
What's interesting to contemplate next is what role solar energy will play in the future of Apple. Could iPhones, iPads, or Macs one day come with integrated solar cells? Would an Apple car be electric and solar powered?
Apple is doing more than any other company to build green energy into its business and this may just be the start. It may not be long before solar comes with some of the Apple products you buy.