Microsoft strikes ‘strategic alliance’ with solar manufacturer

Microsoft simply cast a strategic alliance with a serious photo voltaic panel producer to attempt to make good on its clear power objectives. The deal comes as provide chain woes and allegations of labor abuse are making it more and more troublesome to deploy photo voltaic power throughout the US.

The plan is for photo voltaic power heavyweight Qcells to offer greater than 2.5 gigawatts of photo voltaic panels and associated companies to builders working with Microsoft. That’s sufficient to energy some 400,000 houses, in keeping with Microsoft, which hailed the collaboration as a “first-of-its-kind.”

Provide chain woes and allegations of labor abuse are making it more and more troublesome to deploy photo voltaic power throughout the US

Since 2012, Microsoft has technically bought sufficient clear power to match its electrical energy use. However that doesn’t imply that the corporate’s operations are literally operating on renewables on a regular basis. There simply isn’t sufficient photo voltaic and wind related to energy grids but, with renewables making up solely 20 % of the US electrical energy combine.

Microsoft makes “energy buy agreements” with power suppliers to spur the event of latest photo voltaic and wind initiatives. The purpose is that, by the tip of the last decade, Microsoft will be capable of get its complete power provide “from zero carbon assets on grids the place we function.”

To make issues more durable, the photo voltaic trade is dealing with main provide chain kinks — particularly within the US. Photo voltaic manufacturing is concentrated in China, which provides about 80 % of the world’s photo voltaic panels. That focus makes the photo voltaic provide chain extra weak to bottlenecks, and a serious one these days has been accusations of pressured labor in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Area. The US blocked greater than 1,000 shipments of photo voltaic power elements between June and October final 12 months after banning imports from Xinjiang, Reuters studies. These commerce boundaries have considerably slowed photo voltaic installations within the US.

Microsoft seems to be making an attempt to avoid that bottleneck by partnering with South Korea-based Qcells. Earlier this month, Qcells introduced that it might spend greater than $2.5 billion to construct up a “full photo voltaic provide chain … from uncooked materials to completed panels” within the US. It plans to construct a brand new manufacturing facility in Georgia, the place it additionally operates what it says is the Western Hemisphere’s greatest photo voltaic panel manufacturing plant.

“As one of many world’s largest purchasers of renewable power, this work will assist convey extra photo voltaic power to the grid, quicker,” Microsoft vice chair and president Brad Smith mentioned in a press launch yesterday.

Microsoft might actually use extra clear power on the grid because it struggles to chop down on its local weather air pollution. The corporate’s greenhouse gasoline emissions really rose by about 2.5 million metric tons in fiscal 12 months 2021 in comparison with the 12 months earlier than with a rise in gadget gross sales and cloud companies, in keeping with its newest sustainability report.

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