For major electronics OEMs, transitioning to renewable energy entails not only using it in their own factories but calling on those that supply components to do the same. Apple has done just that. As a result, many of its suppliers are turning to solar and wind power, and some are even reaching out to sea to get it.
As Bloomberg recently reported, for its own operations, Apple can boast of using tapping into renewables for 96% of its own energy use. That includes not only the corporate offices Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president in charge of sustainability and government affairs, says, but also “our data centers, our stores, even our distribution centers.” However, as she told Bloomberg Television, the company is resolved to do even better by “moving onto our supply chain.”
As Apple posted in March, together with its suppliers, the company anticipates that by the end of next year, it “will be generating over 2.5 billion kilowatt hours per year of clean energy.” To put that in perspective, that is tantamount “to taking over 400,000 cars off the road for a year,” the company said.
Apple’s goal of reaching 100% renewable energy for its production entails getting its suppliers to commit making the necessary changes for their energy sources. Apple now has seven supplier companies committed to renewable energy. Among them is Ibiden. It has the distinction of being the first company in Japan to commit to use only renewable energy in producing components for Apple.
Ibiden is set for renewable energy production that is anticipated to “produce over 12 MW of solar power — more than the energy they need for Apple manufacturing — and support Japan’s nationwide efforts to limit its carbon emissions.” In addition to standard facilities, Ibiden’s energy will come from “one of the largest floating solar photovoltaic systems in the country.” By floating the solar panels, energy can be harvested from the sun without taking up limited land space in Japan.
This trend of moving out to the water to harness renewable energy is also being applied to wind power. While we tend to picture wind farms as built on land, they are now also being set up on the sea. The Offshore Wind Journal detailed the benefits – greater capacity for energy generation -- and challenges – logistics -- entailed in such projects.
A small number of floating wind farms are already in use in France, Sweden, and Japan. But the current contender for “the world’s largest floating wind turbine” is the one approved for Scotland’s Kincardine Offshore Windfarm Ltd. in March 2017. Referring to the project that is anticipated to generate enough energy to power 56,000 homes, Scottish Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: ““If the technology can be demonstrated at scale, it has huge potential to help Scotland meet its energy needs and to develop a supply chain that can service opportunities elsewhere in Europe and in markets such as South East Asia and North America.”
Like Apple, Scotland has set its own targets for renewable energy. In January, it announced its goal to power at least half of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2030. The plan to make that happen includes fund for investing in making Scotland greener in the energy sense and includes “innovation in offshore wind,” among other strategies.
As countries and companies set the tone for greener expectations, we should see a lot more innovation in renewable energy sourcing for the electronic supply chain. Just as necessity is the mother of invention, expectations may be said to foster innovation.