Applied Materials goes solar in a big way

October 9, 2008 6:42:48 PM PDT
With 7,000 panels, Sunnyvale's Applied Materials is now home to Northern California's largest corporate solar installation. The maker of semiconductors and solar equipment unveiled its new solar array Thursday, with the help of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"This is really extraordinary, this is green technology, this means that we're not using fossil fuel," Schwarzenegger said.

The panels cover almost all of the company's parking lot and generate 2.1 megawatts, about 5 percent of the electricity Applied Materials uses at its Sunnyvale campus, or enough to power 400 homes.

Applied Materials began operating its solar array in August; at the time, it was the country's largest corporate solar installation, but a Southern California company brought a slightly larger array online two weeks ago.

No one at Applied Materials, though, is complaining.

"We already kind of lost that title, but we're happy with that," Applied Materials spokesperson David Miller said. "We'd love to see more and more people get involved and more of these installations, so we hope someday people will look at this and say, 'oh that was just a small one.'"

While not the largest, the array is larger than Google's. The panels at the Mountain View-based company generate 1.6 megawatts. Last week Google CEO Eric Schmidt reiterated the virtues of solar power before a San Francisco audience.

"It's funny because I was listening to these radio shows where they said, 'well, these people say we should use wind and power instead of nuclear,'" Schmidt said. "Yes, because they're cheaper."

Applied Materials' solar installation cost up to $14 million, but the company will get $5 million back in tax credits.


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