By Pete Carey
Cisco Systems announced plans Tuesday to develop a 20-megawatt solar power facility in the Sonoran Desert near the California-Arizona border that will supply power to its San Jose headquarters.
The deal requires little upfront money from Cisco. NRG Renew, the solar arm of independent power producer NRG Energy, will build the facility at a vacant 153-acre parcel at its Blythe location the NRG has been developing since 2010. Cisco agreed to purchase power from the solar farm for 20 years.
Power will start flowing at the end of 2016.
Ali Ahmed, Cisco’s global energy and sustainability chief, said the plan will further Cisco’s goal of using renewable sources for at least 25 percent of its needs by 2017.
Silicon Valley companies — especially those with big, power-hungry data centers — have embraced green energy in the past few years. Apple recently announced plans to power its Cupertino headquarters building, now under construction, with solar energy from a solar farm operated by First Solar in Cholame, in a remote part of Monterey County. Google signed a 20-year agreement with Florida-based NextEra to buy nearly 43 megawatts of electricity from an Altamont Pass wind farm beginning next year.
Cisco already has about 2 megawatts of solar power for some of its facilities around the U.S., including a new system in Boxborough, Mass. The company said it is focusing on its engineering labs, which it described as “the company’s largest consumers of energy and greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions.”
NRG said its Blythe II solar farm is in a location where average temperatures are 90 degrees or higher. It said the new installation’s 20 megawatts will provide enough electricity to power 14,000 homes and will prevent more than 100,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, a reduction that it said is equivalent to removing 21,000 cars from the road.
NRG is a major independent power producer with about 3 million retail customers nationwide.