Apple to fund joint solar power venture in China

A SunPower solar panel array. Image courtesy of SunPower.
A SunPower solar panel array. Image courtesy of SunPower.

Apple has announced plans this week to make a significant investment into solar power in China.

The iconic tech company is planning to partner with fellow Californian company SunPower, a solar panel manufacturer that sells products worldwide.

Together, the two firms intend to build two separate 20MW solar energy plants in China’s central Sichuan province.

The projects are to be constructed in Hongyuan and Ruoergai counties, and will be built in collaboration with local energy firms.

SunPower aims to use a dual-use approach to ensure that pasture farming can continue on the land while power is being generated, an important consideration in this rural region of China.

“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,” said Tom Werner, president and CEO of SunPower.

Apple plans to use the new solar venture as a way of offsetting the carbon emissions from much of its manufacturing process.

Already the company’s data centres are powered by solar energy, in addition to plans for the new Apple ‘Spaceship’ campus to feature solar power generation.

SunPower has a significant amount of history working with Apple on solar projects, with the company providing solar solutions to Apple on six U.S. projects totalling 90 MW in California, Nevada and North Carolina.

Currying favour

While the amount of money which Apple has invested in the project is unknown, the company is clearly trying to gain favour with the Chinese government through this gesture.

Apple has been previously attacked by the Chinese media (with tacit government backing) for its perceived arrogance.

Last year the fall out between China and Apple appeared to deepen, when regulators in China repeatedly denied Apple the approval to sell its iPhone 6 in China, significantly delaying its launch in this critical market.

Through backing this solar energy project, Apple is showing support for the Chinese government’s push into green energy, and thus hopes to foster greater friendship.