Solar’s Silicon Future

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Thanks to the BBC for this story:

Why Apple And Google Are Moving Into Solar Energy

Silicon Valley’s biggest companies are investing in renewable energy in a serious way – a sign, perhaps, of rapid changes in the energy market.

By Chris Baraniuk 14 October 2016

Most people think of Apple as a company that makes phones, computers and smart watches – not an energy provider. But in August all of that changed when the firm was given permission to sell energy from a Californian solar farm that it acquired last year.

Apple has invested in renewable energy before and says it ultimately wants all of its operations to be powered by 100% renewable sources. It’s not alone in such efforts, either. Online retailer Amazon just announced the construction of a new, 253-megawatt wind farm in West Texas. Google, meanwhile, has invested in the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System pictured above, and it recently joined forces with the company SunPower to provide solar panels to home-owners. Why are tech companies so interested in renewables?

“For these big corporations, electricity is one of their biggest costs,” says Ash Sharma, a solar energy analyst at IHS Technology. “Locking that in at a low price is really critical for them.”

It takes a lot of energy to power modern data centres. Besides running servers 24/7, all that machinery needs to be kept cool – a huge cost by itself. Why, though, would Google be interested in putting solar panels on people’s homes? The firm says it wants to map “the planet’s solar potential” – the data from these panels, including their uptake, could inform future energy strategies.

And yet the price of solar energy has been falling more quickly than some expected. At an energy auction in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates last month, a Japanese and Chinese consortium bid to build a solar farm that would produce energy at less than 2.5 cents per kilowatt hour – that’s significantly cheaper than the average cost of energies like gas and coal in the US, and by far the lowest bid for a solar farm yet.

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Amazon is investing in wind farms to power its servers (Credit: Getty Images)

Sharma thinks the falling cost of solar energy has a lot to do with a boom in solar panel manufacturing.

“There’s been huge manufacturing capacity added in China,” he explains. “[The country] accounts for roughly 80% of all the world’s manufactured solar panels.”…

Read the whole story here.

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