PORTLAND, Ore. -- One of the world's biggest brands is making an environmental investment in Oregon.
Apple has announced it's financing two solar panel and wind farms in Central Oregon. The electricity they'll generate will power Apple's three data centers near Bend.
It's going to save enough fossil fuels to power 65,000 homes every year. Experts are hoping a company as big as Apple is enough to push others like Walmart and Facebook, which has also data centers in Oregon, into the same mindset.
From Portland, if you fly over the Cascades and zoom in on Southwest Millican Road in Prineville, Google Earth shows nothing but juniper and sagebrush. But under construction there right now, is a huge solar panel farm, commissioned for Apple. It will be completed next year.
In their environmental report released on Earth Day, the company says 100 percent of the solar energy harnessed at the farm will go to power the company's three data centers a few miles away.
Farther north in Gilliam County, Apple says it's also backing construction of a new wind turbine farm to funnel power back to Prineville. Apple's goal is to have all it's facilities worldwide on renewable energy.
"You need to have leaders in this kind of thing," said Rachel Shimshak, executive director of Renewable Northwest. Shimshak says not only is it great public relations for Apple to stop using fossil fuels, it's obviously good for the environment, it's getting comparable in price to regular electricity and it helps local counties with jobs and subsidies.
"Customers really value companies who want to do well by the environment and I think Apple has stepped to the front of the line, along with others, to recognize what customers want from them and show they're going to give it to them."
Facebook also has three data centers in Prineville, but hasn't delved into renewable energy yet in our state. It's because Oregon's Public Utility Commission doesn't make the "transition charge" cheap to switch from regular fossil fuels to solar or wind. Walmart agrees, saying it's not cost effective yet in Oregon. The legislature is working on it, but Apple didn't seem to mind.
Shimsahk says you'll see more households and companies moving that way as more of these farms get built.
"Over the next several years, the utilities are going to transfer out of coal resources and grow the amount of renewable resources that meet their needs," she said.
Nike is another company that has made the transition to buying renewable energy in Oregon. According to research by the Portland Business Journal, Nike buys wind power from a plant in the Gorge.
It's also beneficial for household customers. Right now, if you're a Portland General Electric or Pacific Power customer, you can call them and ask to switch to renewable energy. It might cost a few cents more a month, but Shimshak says it's getting closer to the same price every year. And instead of installing solar panels on your own roof, thanks to a new bill passed in 2016, soon you'll be able to invest in a community solar panel farm to share the electricity with your neighbors.