Are recent moves from tech giants into renewable energy a sign of shifting priorities?
Long gone are the days when tech giants Apple and Alphabet (parent company of Google) stuck to making computers and selling ads, with both companies recently indicating further forays into the renewable energy sector.
In an interview with the Australian Financial Review, Apple’s Vice President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives Lisa Jackson indicated that the company was actively looking to invest in an Australian renewable energy project.
While the Australian arm of Apple is already 100% renewable, Ms Jackson indicated that the company was constantly looking for ways to reduce its carbon footprint.
"So we're scouting, so we're looking for more opportunities. I think there's always a way to change the way we lower our carbon footprint in Australia, whether it be solar or wind,” said Ms Jackson to the AFR.
"We don't always want to own our own generation facility, but it's nice to be able to tell your customers where your energy comes from and which field."
Apple has already purchased a number of solar farms worldwide in an effort to reach its target of being 100% renewable, and the company has increasingly moved to put pressure on its supply chain, which accounts for 75% of its carbon footprint, to do the same.
But Apple is not alone in its advancement into renewables, with a report from Bloomberg Technology on Monday suggesting that the secretive research and development arm of fellow teach giant Alphabet, known simply as ‘X’, has been developing a renewable energy storage system that could rival lithium-ion batteries (those used in Tesla home battery storage).
The storage system works by heating and cooling a network of tanks - two of which are filled with salt and two with antifreeze - with the hot and cold air produced by each creating gusts that spin a turbine and produce electricity into the grid.
While the technique is not new, the system developed by X has introduced a number of “newly designed components” which aim to extend the length of time energy can be stored in the system - potentially for hours or even days depending on how well the storage tanks are insulated.
Researchers from X (known as The Moonshot Factory) believe that the system could compete with existing renewable energy storage methods, such as lithium-ion batteries, on potential storage time and on price, and ultimately help in the company's effort towards combating wider energy issues.
"If the moonshot factory gives up on a big, important problem like climate change, then maybe it will never get solved,” said Obi Felten, a director at X, in an interview with Bloomberg.
"If we do start solving it, there are trillions and trillions of dollars in market opportunity."
While X’s system may be a long way off reaching the consumer market, there are a number of options for Australians who are interested in adding a renewable energy mix to their own homes. Head on over to the Mozo energy hub and check ‘green energy plans’ to compare a range of clean energy offers.