Apple has a solar power problem. It has too much of it. Worldwide, Apple gets 93% of the electrical energy it needs from solar and other renewable sources. That electricity runs its stores, offices, and datacenters worldwide. But in California and Nevada, it gets more electricity than it can use from the solar power installations it has constructed.
To put that electricity to use, it has filed a request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for permission to sell power to wholesale markets across the US. It says in its application it should be able to sell energy at market rates since it’s not a big energy company and can’t influence the price of electricity.
Even with the excess capacity it has at the moment, Apple plans to add another 521 megawatts of solar power capacity worldwide, according to its 2016 Environmental Responsibility Report. Is there a connection between the desire to add renewable energy capacity and Apple’s not-so-secret plan to build an electric car? Apple is known to have an interest in electric car charging technology. Perhaps it plans to create a network of electric car recharging stations to compete with the Tesla Supercharger network?
It would be an excellent marketing strategy if it could claim all the electricity needed to recharge electric cars comes from renewable sources. Tesla already gets the power for its Supercharger stations from some renewable energy sources, but it cannot say all the electricity it needs for the network comes from solar power. At least not yet.
The new spinoff from Apple is called Apple Energy LLC. While Apple does not seem to want to get into the wholesale energy market in a big way, it makes sense that if it has an excess supply of electricity from solar power, it should at least be able to recoup some of its considerable investment in the solar installations it already has and plans to have in the near future.
Note that Google started inching into the utility arena 6 years ago.