Did you know the microprocessor inside your computer was likely created with renewable energy? As the largest renewable energy purchaser in the U.S. for eight years running, Intel is taking corporate environmental responsibility to a new stratosphere. Marty Sedler, Director of Global Utilities and Infrastructure, knows what it takes to offset 3.1 billion kWh in annual energy demand.
What makes you passionate about energy infrastructure?
I’ve always liked energy. I have a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Arizona and I got my start in the utility industry. I did everything from power plant operations and engineering to key account management and environmental services. I had the opportunity to work with high-tech industries and part of my responsibilities was educating organizations on how to be more energy efficient. It was a rewarding challenge to find those savings opportunities and return benefits to our partners. When I came to Intel, I started as Manager of Global Utilities. We’ve always owned all of our energy supplies, but the renewable percentage has grown tremendously over the years.
How is Intel investing in renewable energy in the U.S.?
Back in 2008, we started buying renewable energy certificates (RECs) and have become the largest purchaser in the U.S. – 100% of our electric usage is offset or supplied by green energy. That’s 3.1 billion kWh annually.
We’ve adopted RECs because they’re an entry point into clean energy. In regulated territories, you may not have the opportunity to buy green energy directly from the utility or at a reasonable price. On-site renewable projects may be limited by space, capital and time. RECs are a simple and quick way to buy renewable power, support the technology, demonstrate industry leadership and influence others to support clean energy.
But we haven’t stopped there. RECs should be just one source of renewable power in your portfolio. Intel has approximately 18 solar projects, several fuel cells, and provides over 100 EV stations for employees. We just installed 60 wind microturbines on the top parapet walls of our corporate headquarters in Santa Clara, CA. Globally, we have 45 alternative energy sites across 8 countries, 6 states and 20 campuses that are using 11 technologies and applications.
We also recently deployed a solar-battery storage-grid-tied EV fast charger, which combines power from multiple sources into batteries that will charge EVs when the sun isn’t out. It’s a really exciting advancement and has a lot of potential to solve a common barrier for solar.
"These microturbines on the roof perimeter of our corporate headquarters are one of the largest arrays of its type in the world. We’re stating boldly and clearly that we support renewable energy and climate improvement,” says Sedler.
What is your biggest challenge with greening Intel’s energy mix?
I wish it was just one! It really depends on the strategy we’re trying to implement. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say it’s often economics. It’s a challenge to decide what is the best way to spend our money and then secure good returns from an investment.
We also face logistical constraints. Sometimes a property doesn’t have enough space to install a viable system. We have a number of large facilities where demand is upwards of 150 MW – a PV system would have to be impossibly large to even cover a fraction of those power needs. In addition, many of our locations have 24/7 operations that require constant power quality and on-site renewables may not guarantee that kind of reliability. There can be complications with regional utilities understanding the mutual benefit of a proposed project as well.
What are your goals for 2016?
Bigger, faster, smarter – we want to do more. We just committed to the White House American Business Act on Climate Pledge to triple our alternative energy program by 2020. We will need to come up with 80 new projects to fulfill that promise. We’ve also committed to remaining 100% green powered through 2020 and will continue to meet this benchmark with RECs and on-site installations.
Right now, we’re in the middle of installing a 6.5 MW solar array over the parking lots at our Folsom, CA campus. This will cover 2,500 stalls in a location that has high temperatures, which will be an added perk for employees.
We are also working on digital displays that can share solar generation information in real time. These will help us increase awareness about our initiatives to employees and visitors. We will be enhancing these over the upcoming quarters.
How do you keep communication open between staff across multiple sites?
We meet and we share. More importantly, we don’t sandbox and keep things to ourselves. When we have successes, we talk about them. What we’re doing is not a competitive secret, either internally or externally. We use everything from online blogs and webcasts to face-to-face visits to stay connected.
Our Sustainability in Action grant program also allows employees to apply for funding for their ideas for green projects. We’ve funded projects addressing issues such as energy efficiency and rainwater harvesting, as well as creative suggestions like adding beehives to properties.
Intel offers over 100 electric vehicle charging stations for employees, many of which are offset by PV panels that also provide shade. The tech company has invested more than $118 million in energy efficiency and completed over 2,300 projects in the last eight years. These measures have saved more than 2.4 billion kWh of energy and $249 million as of the end of 2014.
What advice do you have for building owners on how to support their operations with clean energy sources?
Get started – it’s really as simple as that. If you don’t take the first steps, you won’t get anywhere. And if your steps are off, then readjust. It’ll be a continual learning effort.
You also have to realize that renewable energy isn’t an all-or-nothing solution. Don’t feel obligated to feed all of a building’s electricity with renewables. You might have a facility that needs 100 MW so you start by putting in 1 MW of clean power – it’s OK to offset a portion of your demand rather than all of it. Growing your renewable energy mix is like saving for retirement – small efforts will grow over time to ultimately meet your goals.