Microsoft strikes ‘strategic alliance’ with photo voltaic producer

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

The plan is for photo voltaic vitality heavyweight Qcells to supply greater than 2.5 gigawatts of photo voltaic panels and associated providers to builders working with Microsoft. That’s sufficient to energy some 400,000 houses, in accordance 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 vitality throughout the US

Since 2012, Microsoft has technically bought sufficient clear vitality 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 linked to energy grids but, with renewables making up solely 20 % of the US electrical energy combine.

Microsoft makes “energy buy agreements” with vitality suppliers to spur the event of latest photo voltaic and wind tasks. The objective is that, by the tip of the last decade, Microsoft will be capable of get its total vitality provide “from zero carbon sources 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 currently has been accusations of compelled labor in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Area. The US blocked greater than 1,000 shipments of photo voltaic vitality components between June and October final yr after banning imports from Xinjiang, Reuters studies. These commerce limitations have considerably slowed photo voltaic installations within the US.

Microsoft seems to be making an attempt to bypass 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 vitality, this work will assist deliver extra photo voltaic vitality to the grid, sooner,” Microsoft vice chair and president Brad Smith stated in a press launch yesterday.

Microsoft might definitely use extra clear vitality on the grid because it struggles to chop down on its local weather air pollution. The corporate’s greenhouse fuel emissions really rose by about 2.5 million metric tons in fiscal yr 2021 in comparison with the yr earlier than with a rise in machine gross sales and cloud providers, in accordance with its newest sustainability report.

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