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On Wednesday, Apple made an announcement that it is building a big battery storage project at a Northern California solar farm that it had developed back in 2015. Apple said that more than 110 manufacturing partners around the globe are making the transition to 100% renewable energy for Apple’s production. This will comprise almost 8 gigawatts of clean energy that is going to come online. When completed, it will save more than a 15 million metric tons of CO2 annually, which equates to taking 3.4 million cars off the road every year.
However, what the big tech giant didn’t share in its announcement was that Tesla is providing the battery packs.
The newly-announced setup was approved last year by the Monterey County Board of Supervisors in 2020 and it’s going to consist of 85 Tesla lithium-ion Megapacks. Tesla’s batteries will also be used to provide power to Apple’s corporate headquarters in Cupertino. Monterey County’s planning chief has confirmed that Apple will use the Tesla batteries.
The megapack battery system was first announced by the US auto manufacturer in 2019. The 60MW storage system that Apple will use is not Tesla’s biggest. Elon Musk’s company built bigger overall battery storage solutions in Australia and south of Houston, Texas of about 100MW in size. However, Apple plugged it as one of the largest battery projects in the USA, saying the battery system has the ability to power over 7,000 homes for 24 hours. The Tesla batteries will enable Apple to store energy generated by its solar array at the farm, which is called California Flats.
Wind and solar power is a highly cost-effective source of electricity but its intermittent nature has been the reason that’s halted widespread adoption. That’s why energy storage is key in retaining generated energy until such time as it is needed.
Apple’s Vice President, Lisa Jackson said, “The challenge with clean energy — solar and wind — is that it’s by definition intermittent. If we can do it, and we can show that it works for us, it takes away the concerns about intermittency and it helps the grid in terms of stabilization. It’s something that can be imitated or built upon by other companies.”
Apple uses lithium-ion batteries in many of its products, but it’s not known to be working on any grid-scale projects. However, the company is supposedly developing a lithium iron phosphate battery for its electric car project.
Apple and Tesla don’t have a lot of history with working together, in fact, there has been incidents of rivalry, talent poaching, and head-to-head confrontations over both companies' satellite network projects. Tesla’s Technoking Elon Musk also said in December that he tried to pitch the idea of Apple buying his company back in 2018, but that Apple’s CEO Tim Cook “refused” to take the meeting.
While Tesla is best known for its luxury electric cars, the company has also spent years building its energy storage business to compliment the solar products it acquired when the company bought Solar City. Since then, it has become increasingly involved in large-scale energy storage projects with Apple being the latest one.
Tesla Energy is still modest when comparing it to the billion dollar EV industry that Tesla dominates but the energy storage division’s products has also managed to pull another rival into its customer base. Two years ago, Volkswagen announced it was using Tesla batteries at some of its Electrify America charging stations.
Electrify America started out in 2016 in Reston, Virginia to promote Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) adoption by offering an ultrafast and convenient charging network across the country.