Silicon Valley companies have stopped talking about who offers their employees the best food (everybody there has a great chef these days). Their latest avenue for one-upping each other: which firm can run its Silicon Valley campus on the greenest energy.
In early February, Apple announced that it is partnering with First Solar to build a solar farm in Monterey County, Calif. Apple will be getting the output of 500 hectares of the 1170-hectare installation. That’s 130 megawatts of power—enough, the company has said, to cover the electricity use of all its facilities in the state, including its new “spaceship” headquarters that is under construction.
Just a day later, Google announced that, by 2016, it will be powering its Mountain View headquarters—generally referred to as the Googleplex—with 43 MW from the Altamont Pass wind farm, or half that facility’s production. As part of this agreement, 370 1980s-era wind turbines will be replaced by 24 larger machines, according to Wired.
Last week, Intel joined the “green” party, announcing that it has installed 58 wind turbines on the roof of its Santa Clara headquarters. The turbines will produce just 65 KW—enough to cover the energy needs of the company’s conference center, not the entire headquarters. But, the company said, this is just a proof-of-concept project, for now.
Facebook, meanwhile, went to another kind of green for its new Silicon Valley headquarters building—a rooftop park. Facebook has made major green energy commitments for its many data centers around the country, as have other tech companies. But perhaps the company should contemplate an interesting decorative border for its headquarters park: It could paint a row of windmills to look like colorful pinwheels, and they would fit right in.
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.