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Third Gigantic Solar Roof in US – Apple Gets Visionary Headquarters

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A just released update for the plans for the new Apple headquarters in Silicon Valley shows a modification to include solar panels covering the entire roof. ARUP North America and local engineering firm Kier & Wright will collaborate on the Foster + Partners plans  to convert the new headquarters to a solar powerhouse.

Sustainable architects Foster + Partners are no strangers to visionary design concepts; their work includes the first ever port for commercial space travel. On the Apple building  almost all of the 750,000 square foot building, as well as possibly a good part of the parking garage (another 320,000 square feet) will be sport a 5 MW solar array, enough power to supply nearly all the power needs of the huge campus.

The only comparable installations are a pair in New Jersey – which is home to the most favorable solar SREC market in the US. New Jersey SRECs (Solar Renewable Energy Credits) essentially make it possible to earn a guaranteed profit off of a solar roof for the next 20 years, at much better rates than the stock market.

The two are for Toys’r’Us  – which has put up a 5.38 MW system on the roof of a distribution center, and Avidan Energy Systems which has a 4.26 MW system. In New Jersey, if utilities do not add a certain amount of renewable energy every year to the grid to meet their Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) the utilities must buy a SREC certificate showing that some one else is shipping that much power to the grid.

Some solar is a requirement. Utilities must put over 200 MW of solar power onto the grid, or 3 percent of the energy they sell by 2020 (and that rises to 5 percent by 2026) or buy SRECs showing that someone else has done so. So Toys’r’Us and Avidan are making are fortune off selling their SRECs showing how much solar energy they are putting on the grid each year.

Apple also plans to solar-power a building in Maiden, North Carolina where it has 174 acres of usable space – enough for a fair bit of power – to supply a  $1 billion data center. While you only need about as much (roof) space as a decent-sized living room to power the average home, commercial data centers have much more intensive energy needs.

(Edit: A reader reminded me of an older story I wrote – which brings to 4 the number of over 4.5MW rooftops in the US.

“By the end of 2011 a 9 MW solar roof using panels from SunPower will be completed on the gigantic roof of the Holt Logistics refrigerated warehouse, enough panels to supply 80% of its huge electricity needs, while also earning a hefty hunk of change annually for making that much power, by relieving their utility of the responsibility of supplying it.”

Unfortunately, I cannot edit the headline after publication.)

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