PHOENIX — Officials say Apple Inc. has built a new solar power plant in Pinal County as an environmentally friendly way to offset the electricity it buys from a utility for the company’s data center in Mesa.

Salt River Project utility officials have met several times over the past year to discuss the 300-acre project but said they could not release details until Tuesday, The Arizona Republic reported (

The solar plant in Florence can generate enough energy to supply more than 12,000 homes with power. That energy is meant to offset the power used by Apple’s Mesa command center facility.

The solar plant is part of a larger effort by Apple to generate enough clean energy to compensate for power its global factories draw from the power grid.

SRP board members recently voted to purchase the power from the plant for an undisclosed price. The purchase will help reduce Apple’s utility expenses.

“We can confirm that SRP will be paying a wholesale or market price for the product that will not negatively impact SRP customers,” SRP spokesman Scott Harelson said Tuesday.

Assuming SRP is paying 5.3 cents per kilowatt-hour, the price it pays in a similar deal with the Sandstone Solar Plant, it will cost SRP about $8 million a year, or $160 million for a 20-year contract to purchase Apple’s power.

Apple announced plans last year to eventually run the Mesa facility with solar power. The new plant won’t provide solar power to the data center directly, but it’s meant to compensate for the power used there.

Information from: The Arizona Republic,