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Applied Materials touts 'largest' solar setup

The tech equipment maker claims bragging rights in Silicon Valley for its parking-lot installation, which is set to produce 2.1 megawatts of energy.

The solar power installation at Applied Materials' headquarters is further evidence that companies looking to go green should think blacktop.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based maker of gear for making high-tech products announced Friday that it has completed the installation a pair of solar power systems that together can produce 2.1 megawatts of energy--which qualifies it, the company says, as the "largest solar power deployment at a corporate facility in the United States."

SunPower Tracker
The 1.2-megawatt SunPower Tracker looks to the sky above the parking lot at Applied Materials. SunPower, via PR Newswire Photo Service

At the nearby Mountain View campus of green-minded Google, an expansive solar installation accounts for 1.6 megawatts. In Nelson, Calif., Far West Rice Mills earlier this year dedicated a 1-megawatt solar array.

Applied Materials splits the solar workload into two pieces serving as a canopy over its parking lot: a 950-kilowatt SunPower PowerGuard installation and a 1.2-megawatt SunPower Tracker setup.

Parking lots, with their wide-open expanses, are an area of focus for some solar power enthusiasts. Researchers, meanwhile, are looking into the power-generating potential of asphalt itself.

The relationship between SunPower and Applied Materials is mutually reinforcing. The solar panels supplied by SunPower are equipped with solar cells manufactured in a process that uses Baccini technology from Applied Materials.

Applied Materials said its solar power system is expected to eliminate more than 2,700 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, or roughly the output of 450 cars. Since November 2007, when the first part of the system went into operation, the solar energy output has been just over 1,400 megawatt hours.

The company also took the opportunity to put in a plug for congressional renewal of the solar energy tax credit, which is set to expire at the end of the year. Applied Materials said that an eight-year extension of the tax credit would create 1.2 million job opportunities and stimulate more than $200 billion in solar energy investments.