Apple is taking on its “most ambitious project ever” and its not a phone, some new wearable gadget, or a even a TV.  Instead, Apple is going to cover 1,300 acres of California countryside in electricity-generating solar panels.

The company will build the $850 million solar energy farm in Monterey County, California, CEO Tim Cook announced today at the Goldman Sachs Technology andInternet Conference. If it wanted to, Apple could power 60,000 homes with its new facility. Instead, the solar farm will provide energy for all of Apple’s operations in the state of California. That’s no small feat. Explains Apple Insider:

The project, which will be done in partnership with First Solar, will provide enough renewable energy into the grid to offset electricity used by Apple’s new Campus 2 corporate headquarters, as well as all 52 Apple retail stores in California, all of its offices, and its data center in Newark, Calif.

For Apple, this is not just a case of going green for the hipness of it.

“We are doing this because it’s right to do, but you may also be interested to know that it’s good financially to do it,” Cook told investors at the conference. “We expect to have a very significant savings, because we have a fixed price for the renewable energy, and there’s quite a difference between that price and the price of brown energy.”

Arizona-based First Solar, which was named one of Fast Company‘s Most Innovative Companies in 2010, was the first solar panel manufacturer to cross below the $1-per-watt threshold.

Apple has been pushing more heavily into renewable energy for a few years by switching its data centers over to clean energy and to power things like running its iCloud servers and the manufacturing of sapphire screens. With today’s news, Apple makes its loudest and most enthusiastic endorsement of renewable energy yet.

Image credit:  minoru karamatsu | Flickr
Via FastCompany