This week, advanced energy is a really, really big deal. Or, the industry is full of big business deals being made. First Solar partnered with Apple, Tesla sees stellar growth ahead, and a new report released by The Brattle Group confirms what most of us suspected – that the EPA’s Clean Power Plan will not threaten the reliability of the grid.
On Tuesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced the “biggest, boldest, and most ambitious project ever,” a partnership with First Solar to buy $850 million-worth of solar power. First Solar will build a new 130-megawatt solar power plant in Monterey County (Apple and First Solar are both members of AEE’s Leadership Council.) It is the single largest procurement deal for a private, non-utility company, and the resulting electricity generated will be enough to power all Apple stores in California, plus Apple’s corporate offices and a data center. In his article for Bloomberg Business, “What Apple Just Did in Solar is a Really Big Deal,” Tom Randall writes that Apple has been increasingly embracing advanced energy. The company already owns two completed 20-MW solar plants in North Carolina, with another in development. Apple’s data centers now run entirely on wind and solar power Randall writes, but Apple’s investment in solar isn’t an altruistic act.
“We expect to have very significant savings,” Cook said at an industry conference. By day’s end, Apple’s valuation reached $711 billion: the first U.S. company to exceed $700 billion, or, as Eric Wesoff put it in Greentech Media, “the most highly valued company in the history of companies.” That’s big.
Elon Musk, of course, has plans to catch up. On Tesla Motor’s 2014 year-end earnings call, Musk said "I mean, if you take this year’s revenue, around $6 billion or thereabouts, and if we are able to maintain a 33 percent growth rate for 10 years and achieve a 10 percent profitability number and have a 20 P/E, our market cap would be basically the same as Apple's is today.” Wesoff reported on the other highlights of the call, including the company’s coast-to-coast Supercharger network, and the company’s expected 70 percent growth in vehicle deliveries this year.
That’s not all Musk has up his sleeve. Ben Popper, writing for the Verge, reports that Musk “let some details slip” about a consumer battery pack for residential customers. Other advanced vehicles boast batteries that can power a home, including the hydrogen fuel cell Toyota Mirai. Nissan’s Leaf battery can also work as a backup generator. Tesla’s battery would be a home-specific battery, and could introduce residential energy storage to a much wider market.
We reported in late 2013 on a partnership between AEE Business Council member SolarCity and Tesla Motors to develop DemandLogic, a battery storage unit connected to a solar panel installation. The system automatically stores electricity during low-use hours for use during peak hours – offering savings for commercial and institutional customers that pay charges based on their peak electric load. The system is ideal for schools, retailers, and offices – larger consumers of energy.
Timing couldn’t be better. Last week’s ARPA-E conference highlighted several next-gen battery technologies, including “flow batteries for forklifts, new proton exchange membranes and sodium-ion cathode structures, and other potential breakthroughs.” Click through for Jeff St. John’s complete coverage in Greentech Media.
Finally, the Brattle Group released a report commissioned by Advanced Energy Economy Institute this week addressing concerns raised by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) around Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan (CPP) impact on reliability. The report concludes that EPA’s plan allows for sufficient alternatives and is unlikely to significantly impact electricity reliability. Read the wrap-ups by UtilityDive and E&E News, and click below to download the full report.