Solar Farms, Power Walls and the Future of Clean Energy

By Phill Powell

Leave it to Silicon Valley – the home of technological innovation – to become the nation’s most innovative place when it comes to clean energy.

Apple has been investing heavily in solar power, and not just in California. This 100-acre Apple solar farm near Maiden, North Carolina, powers Apple’s Data Center there.

Thanks to the efforts of companies like Apple and Google, substantial amounts of energy are being created across the Golden State, as well as many other parts of the nation.

Much of this new environmental push involves solar power. Solar farms, with acres of solar panels that catch and store sunlight, are popping up everywhere. Even progressive community energy initiatives are installing solar panels on municipal buildings like firehouses and post offices.

Tackling a Big Problem
California, the nation’s most progressive state on environmental issues, has been leading the charge for energy conservation. The state has surpassed its original greenhouse-gas-reduction goals and is now trying to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to 40 percent less than their 1990 levels.

The efforts are paying off. Last year, California marked a major achievement by becoming the first state in the U.S. to produce more than 5 percent of its total electricity from solar sources. In fact, now nearly 25 percent of California’s power needs are being met by renewable sources.

Power-ful Ideas About Energy
Among the many companies statewide who are embracing the new drive to save energy globally are Apple and Google, both of which are working on renewable energy initiatives that are designed to not only use less energy but actually add energy back to the power grid.

Google operates numerous wind farms, like this offshore wind farm, which produces 60,000 megawatts of clean, renewable power.

Apple is now in the process of constructing a 280-megawatt solar farm located near its Cupertino headquarters. This one solar farm will produce enough energy to power all of the Apple stores in California, in addition to Apple offices in the Golden State, plus a large data center…and even have enough energy left over to contribute 150 megawatts back to the grid.

Apple already has similar solar farms in other states, such as Nevada and North Carolina.

Not to be outdone, Google is presently planning to power its Mountain View campus with the energy created by a large local wind-power project. The company is in the process of updating its turbine technology to more efficient and environmentally friendly equipment, with an end-goal of supplying energy back to the grid.

Google has operated numerous solar and wind projects for some time, both in California and other locations.

Tesla’s Home Energy Storage Solution
The best scientific thinking in the world is being applied to the energy problem, which explains how forward-thinking Tesla Motors came up with the Powerwall.

Tesla’s lead futurist and inventor Elon Musk created the Powerwall, a large, wall-mounted home battery that can store energy made by a home’s solar panels or can be used for storing energy that is purchased when utility rates are low, and then supply that power to the home during evening hours. (It also serves as a backup electrical source should you experience power shortages.)

The Tesla Powerwall demonstrates how the international energy problem is being examined from different angles…in this case, from the home energy storage perspective.

The Tesla Powerwall, seen here at a press event, gives consumers something new: a way to store their own energy and use it as needed.

Science to the Rescue!
The global energy crisis is one of the most problematic currently facing the earth and its people. California and the companies who call it home are showing the world that tech can be used to help remedy the situation.

But that’s only one of the environmental challenges that scientists are wrestling with. Discover science this summer at Digital Media Academy’s science camps. DMA can help put you on a path toward an exciting career in science.