From its massive solar-powered data center in North Carolina to the announcement that it will build a 70-megawatt solar plant in Arizona, tech giant Apple has put its weight behind the push for a 100 percent clean energy future. Nevertheless, Apple's big reveal on Tuesday of an $850 million partnership with First Solar has sent ripples through the clean tech world, not to mention financial markets. 

As detailed by Mike over at TreeHugger, the partnership involves a 25-year power purchase agreement to buy electricity from 130 megawatts of the 150-megawatt, 1,600-acre California Flats Solar Project to be located in Monterey County. Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed that this agreement will be enough to power all of the company's California operations: 

We are building — we're partnering with First Solar — to build a solar farm in Monterey County, so not too far from here. It's 1,300 acres. It's enough power for almost 60,000 California homes. And it's enough to provide renewable energy for all of our new campus — that you and I were just speaking of a few minutes ago, Apple Campus 2 — every other office we have in California, all 52 retail stores we have in California, and our data center in Newark. And so, it's an $850 million investment.
This announcement is a huge step forward for renewable energy advocates. 

Not only is this First Solar's first commercial PPA (an agreement with a producer to provide electricity directly to a commercial end user), it is also, according to Cleantechnica, the largest commercial PPA in the clean tech industry to date. 

Also significant is that Cook directly tied the decision to good business and to an explicit recognition that global climate change is real and that companies must do everything they can to change course: 

We know, in Apple, that climate change is real. And our view is that the time for talk has passed, and the time for action is now. And we've shown that with what we've done. And so we're now running all of our data centers — which require lots of energy, for those of you that understand data centers — all of them are run off renewable energy.
Given that Cook has previously been attacked by anti-renewables campaigners who argued such clean tech commitments harm shareholders, it's worth noting that shares of both First Solar and Apple saw significant gains in trading following Cook's announcement.

Investors and CEOs alike are increasingly sure of which way the wind is blowing in terms of the future of energy. As Bloomberg put it, what Apple just did in solar is a really big deal

We couldn't agree more. 

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