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Apple & SunPower Collaborating On 170 MW Solar Power Project In Mongolia

Three solar power projects with a combined capacity of 170 MW are being constructed by Zhonghuan Energy in the northern Chinese territory of Inner Mongolia. Apple Inc. is supplying 40% of the funds for the projects, which is about US $103 million. Zhonghuan Energy and SunPower are providing the other 60%. The solar power plants will be jointly owned by SunPower, Zhonghuan, and a third party that wasn’t identified, but SunPower CEO Tom Werner said Apple would have an equity stake.

Inner_MongoliaThe new solar plants will assist Apple in powering its manufacturing and supply operations in the area, which gets most of its electricity from coal-burning plants.

Apple and SunPower have already collaborated on a 40 MW solar power plant in ABA Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefectures, Sichuan Province of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC). CEO Tom Werner said of this smaller project, “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.” Apple’s interest in renewable energy is not new, as it has been investing in this form of electricity for some time and running data centers with it.

Inner Mongolia is the location of mining operations for rare earth materials, which are used in smart phones, electric car motors, computer hard drives, and other consumer technologies. Baotou, the largest industrial city there, has grown from 97,000 in 1950 to about 2.5 million today, due to rapid economic growth. Inner Mongolia is also where some of the largest fossil fuel developments are located, “By 2015, the base will have a total planned annual coal mining capacity of 520 million tons and a planned coal-fired power generation capacity of 48,000 megawatts.”

Solar power is much better for human health and the environment, but coal is well-entrenched and clearly in a dominant position. Small victories eventually will add up as we transition away from fossil fuels.

Image Credit: Yongxinge, Wiki Commons

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