Intel’s announcement that it will install solar power systems at four locations nationwide including Hillsboro represents the company’s most recent tactic in a sweeping global strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Intel, Oregon’s largest private-sector employer, is the biggest user of electricity within Portland General Electric’s territory, burning through approximately 700 million kilowatt-hours per year at its Hillsboro plants. If Intel were to buy power through PGE’s normal mix of hydro, coal and gas, it would generate emission of 286,349 metric tons of CO2 annually, but that impact is lessened by the 27 million kwh of wind power Intel buys from PGE. It’s one of many steps Intel is taking to reduce its carbon footprint under Marty Sedler, director of global utilities and infrastructure.
Sedler says Intel has invested $30 million in conservation projects and another $125 million through its capital arm to support green companies including four solar power businesses. Most significantly, Intel has emerged as the nation’s top purchaser of green power for two years in a row, contracting in 2010 to buy more than 1.4 billion kwh of energy per year from wind, solar, biomass and geothermal sources.
The Environmental Protection Agency credits Intel’s green power investment with reducing its carbon footprint by the equivalent of 197,000 passenger vehicles or 134,000 American homes per year.
“Buying green power was the quickest way to create the most impact and do the most good,” Sedler says. “Installing solar is the next logical step.”
The new solar panels in Hillsboro would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32.8 million pounds, according to Intel’s calculations. Sedler says Intel has not decided exactly where to install the arrays, but it has elected to buy most of its panels from First Solar, an Arizona-based manufacturer that produces thin-film solar panels. That news may not go over well with Intel’s neighbor in Hillsboro, SolarWorld, which specializes in traditional crystalline panels and is in danger of losing market share to First Solar’s thin-film technology.
Sedler says conservation, green power and new solar arrays will all contribute to Intel’s goal to reduce its carbon footprint by 20% from 2007 levels over the next two years. He won’t say how much of a premium Intel pays to buy green power, but whatever Intel is spending extra is hardly making a dent on the bottom line. The company earned more than $2.3 billion during the final quarter of 2009 on $10.6 billion in revenues.