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Apple's Arizona sapphire plant spurs construction of new renewable energy projects

The Hudson Ranch geothermal plant | Source: EnergySource

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Apple's desire to have its Arizona sapphire plant run entirely on renewable energy from day one has spurred the construction of new solar and geothermal power projects in the region, a new report says.

Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple is said to have negotiated directly with Arizona utility SRP to ensure the new facility could be operated without the use of fossil fuel-burning power plants, according to Bloomberg. The additional green energy capacity was one of several concessions — alongside new on-site power infrastructure, expedited permit processing, and financial incentives — made by commercial and governmental entities in the state in order to land Apple's business.

"It's not like getting an extension cord and plugging it in," Mesa, Ariz. mayor Scott Smith told the publication. "These deals live and die many times before they come together."

SRP has signed several new agreements to purchase as much as 75 megawatts of energy from renewable sources in recent months, though it is unclear how much of that is related to the Apple deal. The utility has added power from a 25-megawatt geothermal facility in Beaver County, Utah as well as a 50-megawatt geothermal plant in the Imperial Valley of southern California.

Before its unveiling, the Arizona plant was codenamed Project Cascade

Those agreements are in addition to the more than 700 megawatts of green power SRP already purchases. SRP has not said exactly how much it expects the Apple facility to draw, only that it believes the factory will "add significant electrical load."

The Arizona plant will not be the first Apple facility to depend entirely on renewable energy, as the company moves toward dropping power from fossil fuels entirely.

Apple's Maiden, NC datacenter is powered by two Apple-owned 20-megawatt solar power arrays located adjacent to the datacenter as well as a 10-megawatt fuel cell installation that the company says is the largest non-utility fuel cell installation anywhere in the world. Apple's existing datacenter in Newark, Calif. is served primarily by wind power, while new sites in Reno, Nev. and Prineville, Ore. will take advantage of existing locally-sourced renewable energy.

All together, Apple says that more than 75 percent of power in use at corporate facilities around the world is from renewable sources.