Apple Can Sell Power as Tech Giants Boost Investments

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People walk outside the Apple store on the Fifth Avenue in New York on Feb. 17, 2016.

Photographer: Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images
  • The iPhone maker joins Google, Microsoft as energy investors
  • Tech giants leading in corporate investments in clean energy

Apple Inc., which is spending $850 million on a 130-megawatt solar farm near San Francisco over 25 years, can begin selling power into wholesale markets in the latest foray by a technology company into the energy business.

Apple’s subsidiary Apple Energy LLC may sell energy, capacity and other services needed to maintain reliable power, according to an order by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Thursday. In granting approval, the commission determined the company did not raise the risk of being able to unfairly hike up power prices.

QuickTake Apple's Path

The iPhone maker is among a group of companies investing in energy projects in a bid to tackle global warming and cut electric bills. Google, Microsoft Corp. and Amazon.com Inc. are backing wind turbines and solar farms to power their operations and lower their carbon footprint.

“When you own power production facilities then you would typically want to have authority to sell power,” Kit Konolige, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence, said by phone Thursday. “It is indicative of a number of related trends that are lowering demand for power produced by utilities.”

Apple entered into an agreement last year with First Solar Inc. to buy power from the California solar farm in what was at the time the largest-ever solar procurement for a company that isn’t a utility, according to data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Apple also owns 20 megawatts of generation in the Nevada Power Company service area and 50 megawatts in the Salt River Project service area in Arizona, according to the FERC order. All of Apple’s data centers are now powered by renewables.

Data Centers

A spokesman for Apple declined to comment. Shares rose 0.6 percent to $105.86 at 2:07 p.m. in New York.

Google, the biggest corporate buyer of clean energy in the U.S., announced in June it agreed to purchase energy from wind farms under development in Norway and Sweden to power its data centers in Europe. The company has a goal of running all operations on clean energy.

Apple may begin wholesale power sales Saturday. Google gained similar rights in 2010.

(Corrects timeframe of investment in first paragraph of story published Aug. 4.)
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