Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Intel Builds Vietnam's Largest Solar Power Plant

Posted by Tom Foremski - May 15, 2012

Solar Vietnam

The solar array at Intel's Vietnam Assembly and Test Factory in Ho Chi Minh City. (Flickr photo.) 

By Intel Free Press

The largest operating solar power plant in Vietnam was installed recently at Intel's Saigon Hi-Tech Park facility in Ho Chi Minh City. The 1,092 high-efficiency photovoltaic panels on the roof of the Vietnam Assembly and Test Factory came online in April.

The system is expected to generate about 321,000 kWh per year that will be consumed directly by the factory, reducing the flow from the local electrical grid.

 The facility's opening coincided with the release of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) list of Top 50 Green-Powered Organizations, which ranks organizations that use clean, renewable electricity from a variety of sources including solar. Intel has topped the list every year since 2008. Other technology companies on the latest ranking include Microsoft (ranked 3rd), Cisco (16th), Dell (41st) and Google (48th). According to the EPA, Intel uses more than 2.5 billion kWh of green power annually, which comes from solar and other Green-e certified sources such as wind and geothermal.

"In the past 4 years we've 'over doubled' the [Green power] purchases we've made," said Marty Sedler, Intel's director of global utilities and infrastructure. "Currently, we are buying 2.8 billion kWh annually and that is estimated to be more than 88 percent of our US energy use."

Solar sites converting sunlight to electricity are located at 15 Intel sites within four states, Israel and, now, Vietnam. Sunlight also heats nearly 100 percent of the water used in the Bangalore, India facilities. Intel estimates that the solar installations at its facilities generate 5.5 million kWh annually.

The lead position Intel has established in use of green power is strategic according to Sedler.

"Long term, our efforts are intended to help spur the renewable energy market, making them cheaper and more available," he said. "This will, in turn, result in lowering the cost of power and reducing the overall carbon emissions from electric generation."

Intel's use of green power has increased significantly since 2008 when it purchased 1.3 billion kWh of green energy. By 2010, 50 percent of the company's US power was from green sources and that jumped to nearly 88 percent in 2011. By contrast, Microsoft, which made its first appearance on the EPA list in 2012 and recently pledged to go carbon neutral in 2013, draws 46 percent of its electricity from green sources.

Though solar power fulfills a modest percentage of Intel's total electricity needs, solar installations provide tangible evidence of the company's commitment to renewable energy, according to Sedler.

"Solar is something you can see, touch and feel," he said. "With energy, we're not trying to find one single approach to sustainability. We take a portfolio approach and solar is part of that. But there's also conservation and efficiency efforts at all sites worldwide, LEED buildings, investments in green tech and making our products more energy efficient. As times change, we'll make changes to our portfolio, continuing to optimize the opportunities. Diversifying our energy supplies across the world will continue to be a priority for Intel."

Below: The solar installation at Intel's Folsom, Calif. location is the company's largest, sprawling across 5.5 acres and generating more than 1,000 kWh annually. (Flickr photo.)

Solar Folsom

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