Saturday, February 21, 2015

Is Apple Losing Its Way?

  Frankly, I am mind-boggled at the news that Apple Computer is buying some 800 million dollars worth of solar energy.  Apple cites the need to reduce consumption of fossil fuels in the name of planetary ecology.  And they are right that large companies need to lead the industry in creating environmental policies, rather than being behind the curve and having to retrofit later on.  

    On the other hand if I were a shareholder of Apple (I'm not) I would be aghast that they have some 800 million dollars to invest in something other than a consumer electronic gadget. 

     Will solar power actually save money?   I doubt it.  Photovoltaics are still expensive.  The numbers I see are still around $0.30 per kwH, and higher if you want to use batteries for power at night or on cloudy days.   Natural gas plants are more in the range of $0.05 per kilowatt hour.  So I can't understand why Apple thinks its a good idea to pay like six times the amount that everyone else pays for electricity. Is their real goal to invest in real estate that supports all these photovoltaic panels?  Maybe if they are getting some help from the government to buy land for this photovoltaic enterprise, that might be the real money maker.  

     The use of more expensive energy is a classic case for government involvement, if that is what the people really want.  I always thought it would be very hard for industry to voluntarily select a more expensive energy source (environmentally conservative, financially wasteful).  Hence this apparent decision by Apple is amazing and riveting. Now it is not just a consumer electronics company, it seeks to make money by consumer electronics as well as energy trend setting by promoting photovoltaic energy.  

    It doesn't stop with photovoltaics.  Apple also seeks to start building automobiles, as early as 2020.  Apple has great expertise in batteries for consumer electronics. Does that mean that they are also experts in automotive batteries?   And what about the rest of the car?   This is an amazing leap from cell phones and computers to cars and photovoltaic power systems.  

Apple figures that it is so smart it can challenge Tesla for leadership in electric car production.  But I think their money has finally exceeded their good sense.  

     Perhaps Apple will continue to be darlings on Wall Street and lead the United States and the world into a new way of life, with environmental responsibility and electric cars.  Or perhaps they are creating billion dollar financial messes.  I fear that it may be closer to the latter.  


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