The city of Claremont, North Carolina has just signed an agreement with Apple, which will allow a 100-scre solar farm to be built, providing 17.5 megawatts of energy annually at the development cost of $55 million. This will be Apple’s third large solar farm in the United States. Of the mega-corporations, Apple continues to be a leader in responsible stewardship of sustainable energy practices.
Apple is currently the only company in the industry that powers its data centers with 100% renewable energy. While Apple does not have an impeccable record for doing business humanely, with several 15-year old children found to be working in factories that supply Apple with iPods and mobile phones, it does at least continue to make progress on the energy front. (Microsoft recently purchased the entire 20-year output of the Pilot Hill Wind Project in Illinois, but they don’t crate solar or wind-power infrastructure, and Google recently pledged $250 million to the company, SunPower, to create a solar power fund – which essentially leases solar power to 20,000 homes.)
On that note, Apple and Catawba County seem to have struck a solar bargain. The first 20 megawatt farm built by Apple is located on the company’s campus in Maiden, North Carolina, and just last year Apple gained rights for the construction of another 20 megawatt solar farm in Conover. The solar farms are used to power the iCloud data center.
Apple’s latest solar endeavor required the City of Claremont to annex land that was not in the city’s corporate limits, but in its extraterritorial jurisdiction. A separate agreement allows for a land swap between Apple and the City, with Apple returning two parcels of land to be used for greenways, public recreation and other public purposes. 75 jobs are expected to be created in the construction of the farm, and they have promised to source their employees from the state’s pool of talent, where possible.
North Carolina has heavy incentives for building solar energy farms. Under state law, “80 percent of the appraised value of a solar energy electric system is excluded from the city’s tax base,” according to the Hickory Record.”
The project is expected to take five years to complete, and the appraised value of the land at that date is currently unknown.
As solar briefing papers from the American Planning Association point out:
“One of the keys to local solar market growth is a supportive regulatory environment. Planners ...