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Update: More Details on Apple's NC Solar Farm

One month after revealing plans for a big solar project at its new data farm in North Carolina, Apple has opened the kimono a bit more to show the project's planned output, ready date, and one of the key partners.

Last month Apple disclosed plans to partly power its giant new data farm in Maiden, NC, with a 20 megawatt (MW) solar system. (Also part of the plan is a smaller fuel cell system, possibly supplied by Bloom Energy). Today, the San Jose Mercury News picked up on a new filing with the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) that lays out more details about the proposed 100-acre project, including size, possible cost, and the main technology supplier.

Some of the information is blocked as confidential — including maps and photographs of the site, projected costs, anticipated kilowatt and kilowatt/hour outputs (on- and off-peak), and terms of the electricity sale agreement — but here's what we can glean from the publicly available NCUC documents (filed under "SP-1642/Sub 0"):

  • Size and scope: The proposed 100-acre solar farm (total site is 121.47 acres), dubbed "Project Dolphin," will incorporate 14 PV installations, though the final number will to be determined based on input from the utility (Duke Energy), PV system provider (unidentified), and local permitting authorities. SunPower will provide its E20 435-watt photovoltaic modules (rated at 20 percent efficiency), on ground-mounted single-axis tracking systems," rotating on a north/south axis. Inverters will convert the DC output to AC. It's planned for 20MW energy output, with "just under 25 megawatts" (DC) generated at the PV module level.
  • Timeline: The project will be installed in phases, though the installations will be interconnected as they are completed. It is expected to start delivering power to the grid as early as October 2012, and all of it should be online by December 31.
  • What's not said: The documents don't directly get into costs either for Apple or Duke, except to say that there will be no discernable impact on Duke Energy's expansion plans or costs. For Apple, all it reveals is that the project will be self-financed from both current assets and ongoing operations, and represents "less than a quarter of a percent of positive cash/securities balance." However, in Apple's latest public filing as of Sept. 2011 (also listed in the NCUC docs) that cash/securities number is listed as $97 billion, so 0.0025 percent out of that is roughly $242 million.


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Jim is Contributing Editor for, covering the solar and wind beats. He previously was associate editor for Solid State Technology and Photovoltaics World, and has covered semiconductor manufacturing and related industries, ...


Volume 18, Issue 3


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