Apple Expanding Its Energy and Environmental Initiatives in China

Under the expanded program, Apple is creating a multiyear project to better manage forests in China and to move its operations in the country to 100 percent renewable energy.

Apple, China, environment, energy, forests

Apple is moving to make its operations in China more environmentally friendly, starting with initiatives that will expand existing renewable energy projects for its manufacturing facilities and will create a new forestland program that will protect as many as 1 million acres of responsibly managed working forests which provide fiber for pulp, paper and wood products.

The efforts, which were announced by the company on May 11, aim to continue efforts that the company has been making to reduce its environmental and energy impacts around the world.

"We've set an example by greening our data centers, retail stores and corporate offices, and we're ready to start leading the way toward reducing carbon emissions from manufacturing," Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, said in a statement. "This won't happen overnight—in fact it will take years—but it's important work that has to happen, and Apple is in a unique position to take the initiative toward this ambitious goal. It is a responsibility we accept. We are excited to work with leaders in our supply chain who want to be on the cutting edge of China's green transformation."

The company is also starting a new multiyear project with World Wildlife Fund to increase the number of responsibly managed forests across China, with a goal of achieving a net-zero impact on the world's supply of sustainable virgin fiber.

In addition, Apple has a goal of powering all its operations worldwide on 100 percent renewable energy in the future.

"Forests, like energy, can be renewable resources," Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president of environmental initiatives, said in a statement. "We believe we can run on naturally renewable resources and ensure that we protect—and create—as much sustainable working forest as needed to produce the virgin paper in our product packaging. This is an important step toward that goal and our commitment to leave the world better than we found it."

In April, Apple had announced its first major solar project in China to power all of the company's corporate offices and retail stores. For that project, Apple is partnering with Leshan Electric Power, Sichuan Development Holding Co., Tianjin Tsinlien Investment Holding Co., Tianjin Zhonghuan Semiconductor and SunPower to create two 20-megawatt solar farms, according to Apple. The project will generate up to 80 million kilowatt hours per year of clean energy, enough to power the equivalent of 61,000 Chinese homes.

Apple says that 87 percent of its global operations today run on renewable energy. The company has 19 corporate offices and 22 retail stores in China, including Hong Kong, directly employing 8,000 people. It plans 25 more Apple stores in China by 2016, according to an earlier eWEEK report.

Apple has also been making progress on its environmental and energy programs in the United States. In February, the company announced that it will spend $848 million over the next 25 years to purchase solar power that will run all of its corporate offices, stores and other facilities in California under a deal that will help it meet its corporate needs for electricity while combating climate change by cutting its reliance on fossil fuels. The deal between Apple and First Solar is believed to be the largest commercial solar agreement in the industry so far, according to an earlier eWEEK report.

The plant is being built by Arizona-based First Solar and will be able to collect up to 280 megawatts of generation capacity from the sun through its solar panels at one time. Apple has signed a 25-year deal to use 130 megawatts of the plant's solar capacity once it is completed, according to the company. The 280,000-megawatt generation capacity of the entire solar facility will collect enough power from the sun to provide electricity for about 100,000 average-sized homes in California. The construction of the California Flats Solar Project will start in mid-2015 and be finished by the end of 2016, according to First Solar. The facility will be built on some 2,900 acres in rural Monterey County, south of San Francisco.