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Solar Power From Apple Could Light Up Your Home

Apple solar site CaliforniaApple solar site California
The power grid that leads into the site of the California solar farm that will provide Apple with electricity.Photograph by Katie Fehrenbacher

Apple has won permission from federal regulators to sell excess electricity that is generated by three of its major solar projects.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, on Thursday approved a June 6 application from Apple’s energy subsidiary to sell electricity in six regional power markets around the country at market rates. “Based on your representations, Apple Energy meets the criteria for a Category 1 seller in all regions and is so designated,” Steve Rodgers, director in FERC’s Division of Electric Power, wrote in a letter to Apple’s legal counsel.

The electricity play is an outgrowth of Apple’s efforts to supply its data centers with renewable power. Best known for its popular mobile devices like the iPhone, Apple has increasingly been building online services like the App store and iCloud backup. That required building power-hungry data centers, which in turn led to the company’s search for renewables.

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In March, Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy, and social initiatives, said 93% of the company’s worldwide facilities were using electricity generated completely from renewable sources. In 23 countries, including the United States and China, Apple runs entirely on power generated from the sun, wind or water, she said.

Apple (AAPL) needed several waivers from FERC rules because typically when non-energy companies want to unload excess power they must sell only to utilities and at lower, wholesale rates. But Apple argued that it would be too insignificant a power player to impact market rates with its sales and should be allowed to sell without those restrictions.

The approval was earlier reported by Bloomberg.

The approval covers electricity generated at two projects in Nevada, which will generate a total of 70 megawatts, and the company’s Flats Solar project in central California, which will generate another 130 megawatts

Early last year, Apple announced plans to spend $848 million to buy solar power from a huge 130 megawatt solar panel project under construction by solar developer First Solar (FSLR) in Monterey County, in central California.