Apple will invest $850M in California solar farm

Apple CEO Tim Cook says the First Solar project will produce enough power for its headquarters, all of its retail stores in California and many other facilities.

Under CEO Tim Cook, Apple has posted record profit and sales. James Martin/CNET

Apple's making an even bigger jump into renewable power.

CEO Tim Cook on Tuesday said Apple is partnering with First Solar on its "biggest, boldest and most ambitious [renewable energy] project yet." The two companies will build a 1,300-acre solar farm in Monterey County in California.

The site will produce enough electricity to power nearly 60,000 California homes. It also is enough renewable energy for Apple's new campus in Silicon Valley, all of its other offices in California, all of its retail stores in the state and a data center, Cook said.

When it comes to renewable energy, "the time for talk is past," Cook said. "The time for action is now."

Cook made the comments Tuesday at the Goldman Sachs technology conference in San Francisco.

First Solar, meanwhile, said in a press release that Apple has committed $848 million for clean energy from First Solar's California Flats Solar Project. Apple will receive electricity from 130 megawatts of the solar project under a 25-year power purchase agreement, which First Solar called "the largest agreement in the industry to provide clean energy to a commercial end user."

"Apple is leading the way in addressing climate change by showing how large companies can serve their operations with 100 percent clean, renewable energy," Joe Kishkill, chief commercial officer for First Solar, said in a press release. "Apple's commitment was instrumental in making this project possible and will significantly increase the supply of solar power in California."

Apple has made a big push to use renewable energy for its power-hungry data centers, as well as make its product more energy efficient. Along with the new California solar farm, Apple earlier this month said a new data center in Arizona will be powered entirely by renewable energy. Most of the power will come from a new local solar farm, Apple said, and the company will produce 70 megawatts of clean energy, enough to power more than 14,500 Arizona homes.

The remarks Tuesday also come a couple of weeks after Apple reported the best sales quarter in its 38-year history, as demand for its newest smartphones, the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus, soared beyond analysts' expectations. The company said it sold a record 74.5 million iPhones during the period, much higher than the 66.5 million estimated by analysts.

At the same time, Cook revealed the Apple Watch will start shipping in April. The company, which announced the device in September, earlier only said the Apple Watch would hit stores in "early 2015." The lowest-end Apple Watch will cost $349.

Updated at 1:10 p.m. PT with comment from First Solar.