Apple partners with SunPower to build twin 20-megawatt solar plants in China

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Apple is set to expand its global investment in alternative energy sources with the construction of two new solar energy sites in mainland China, which when combined will provide up to 80 million kilowatt-hours of power each year.

The new facilities will be constructed in China's southwestern Sichuan province, within Hongyuan and Ruoergai counties in the Aba Tibetan & Qiang Autonomous Prefecture. They will be co-owned by Apple and Sichuan Shengtian New Energy Development Co., a joint venture between SunPower and a consortium of Chinese firms.

SunPower's "light-on-land" design will be used in the solar plants' construction, meaning that farmers can continue to use the land as a pasture even after equipment has been installed. Apple and SunPower have worked together on similar projects in the past, including the solar installation at Apple's Maiden datacenter in North Carolina.

"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," SunPower CEO Tom Werner said in a release. "These projects will provide clean, renewable energy, help address climate change, and continue to provide agricultural benefits to the local farmers, while protecting the area's precious land. We continue to value our partnership with Apple and commend them for their global environmental commitment."

Construction on both facilities is now underway, with the Hongyuan location already producing 2 megawatts. Both projects are expected to be complete by the end of this year.

This marks Thursday's second ecologically-related announcement from Apple, after the company revealed that it has purchased 36,000 acres of U.S. forest land to create sustainable sources for product packaging material.