Corporate Utilities

As Apple stores, data centers and warehouses expand across the globe, the company is looking toward supplying renewable energy… for itself.

Walmart and Google both prioritize renewable energy projects as well, each hoping to eventually get to 100% renewable power. Energy use has skyrocketed in the past few years due to the cloud. So, companies supporting this data have needed to look for alternative ways to support these systems.

Apple's new solar farm through First Solar
Photo Source: NY Times
Companies, as energy wholesalers and efficient users of energy, can reduce their plug loads drastically, reducing operation costs. However, many of these companies are equally focused on the environmental benefits; they understand how necessary it is to change with the times and adopt new energy- and money-saving technologies. Energy production is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, and so companies committed to a clean and renewable future want to minimize these emissions through supplying and using renewable energy.

Apple is always looking for new and creative ways to increase its dependence on renewable energy especially as energy from renewable sources continues to drop and be competitive. The company recently went under contract with First Solar to, over 25 years, purchase a new solar farm’s full energy output. This contract allows Apple to be at least somewhat autonomous in its energy purchases and not be subject to higher prices from bigger power companies.

Corporate Renewable Projects
Photo Source: BRC
The number of corporate renewable energy programs and projects doubled from 2013 to 2014 and again from 2014 to 2015 (see image from the BRC). However, while companies are installing large-scale solar projects and purchasing clean energy from local biomass generators for some of their facilities, there is still much to accomplish. The grid is still monopolized by carbon-based energy sources. So, even if a company is dedicated to 100% renewable power, there’s no way to guarantee all energy from the grid is renewable.

Apple, Walmart, Google, and others like MacDonald’s and GM are working with World Resources Institute to determine how to meet the demand for renewable energy in the corporate world. This is a global issue that will only become more serious. 

The good news? Some of the biggest and most influential companies and research institutions committed to this energy supply problem, and so we will see a faster and much more wide spread adoption of technology advances, policy changes and public awareness.

Smartphone Solutions for Energy Problems

While doing research on a completely different topic I ran across a study that predicts smartphone usage will increase by 2600% by the year 2020.  If that is truly the case what is in store for smartphone technology in our future? 

Well, by 2020 smartphones are predicted to replace cash and credit cards as the preferred payment method. However, what I found most interesting is the advances in gadgets that will save energy and pay for themselves in a relatively short time such as the smart and Apple-esque thermostat designed by Apple alumni and iPhone designer Tony Fadell. 

As reported on Green Tech Media, Tony’s “Nest” thermostat distinguishes between radiant heat systems, heat pumps, and forced air, with a thermostat profile optimized for each system type. There are temperature sensors, humidity sensors, and ambient light sensors. Power comes over existing thermostat wires, which makes it compatible with 85 percent to 90 percent of American homes. The team wanted to make the product beautiful but unobtrusive. It's fair to say that the team succeeded -- the thermostat is a sleek piece of design that clearly betrays its Apple roots.

Thermostats need to turn off at night and turn off when we go away. They do not command the emotional connection we have with smart phones. It will be an enormous challenge for Nest to recreate the excitement of an entertainment product in a utilitarian device like a thermostat. But these engineers have overcome enormous challenges in the past.

--Dee Cox

photo credit: Chris JL via photopin cc
photo credit: Nest via photopin cc