PALO ALTO, Calif. — Apple is expanding its environmental efforts by preserving 36,000 acres of “sustainable” timberland in Maine and North Carolina. It will also invest in a new Chinese solar power project.

The initiatives come as the tech giant this year met a self-imposed goal of powering all its U.S. operations with renewable energy to reduce carbon emissions — initiatives that have won high marks from environmental groups like Greenpeace.

On Thursday, Apple announced a new focus on using paper from trees harvested under environmentally sound conditions and pledged an unspecified amount of money for a Virginia-based nonprofit, the Conservation Fund, to purchase two large tracts of timberland on the East Coast.

One of those tracts is more than 32,400 acres known as Reed Forest on the Mattawamkeag River in Aroostook County, Maine.

According to the Conservation Fund’s website, the acquisition “builds on a broader landscape of more than a million acres of conserved lands and interconnected forest habitat that stretches beyond the border into New Brunswick, Canada.

“Reed Forest will remain a working forest, ensuring continued fiber production and protecting jobs and recreational opportunities.”

The partnership will also protect more than 3,600 acres of pine and hardwood forest in Brunswick County, along the southern coast of North Carolina.

The Conservation Fund will resell both tracts of land to commercial interests under terms that require future owners to preserve the forest and follow environmentally sound principles for cutting and replanting trees.

Larry Selzer, chief executive of the Conservation Fund, said that will protect the forest while keeping it in the hands of private owners who pay taxes and create jobs. Selzer said he’ll use proceeds from reselling the land to buy and protect additional tracts.

The solar project in China has a capacity of 40 megawatts, which is smaller than some projects Apple has announced in the United States. By comparison, Apple is spending $850 million for rights to nearly half the output of a 280-megawatt solar facility planned for construction south of Apple’s Cupertino, California, headquarters. That project will produce enough energy to power all of Apple’s California offices, a computer center and 52 retail stores.

Still, the Chinese project will produce more than the amount of energy consumed by Apple’s 19 corporate offices and 21 retail stores in China and Hong Kong, said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president for environmental initiatives. She added that Apple uses renewable energy for 87 percent of the power at its facilities worldwide.

That figure, however, doesn’t include substantial power consumption by contract manufacturers. With the new project in China, Apple is looking to improve its own operations first.

“Before we go somewhere else and start asking and eventually requiring clean energy, you want to make sure you show folks how to do it,” said Jackson, who was U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator during President Barack Obama’s first term.

Jackson declined to say how much Apple is investing in the plant, which is being built in partnership with U.S. energy company SunPower and four Chinese firms. Although China is known for heavy reliance on coal, its government has set aggressive goals for solar, wind and hydroelectric power.

Portland Press Herald staff contributed to this story.

 

 


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