Amazon announced this week that it has teamed up with Community Energy to build and operate an 80 megawatt (MW) solar farm in Virginia, which the companies claim to be the largest solar farm in the state.
The announcement comes just one day after an environmental advocacy group hit out at AWS over its carbon footprint and energy reporting practices.
The companies said the solar farm, to be named the Amazon Solar Farm US East, will start generating approximately 170,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of solar power annually as early as October 2016 – which is roughly equivalent to the amount of energy used to power approximately 15,000 US homes for a year.
Amazon said the power purchasing agreement (PPA) is part of its long-term goal announced last year of powering all of its datacentre infrastructure using 100 per cent renewables. It said as of April this year about a quarter of its infrastructure is powered by renewables.
“We continue to make significant progress towards our long-term commitment to power the global AWS infrastructure with 100 percent renewable energy,” said Jerry Hunter, vice president of infrastructure at Amazon Web Services. “Amazon Solar Farm US East – the second PPA that will serve both existing and planned AWS datacenters in the central and eastern US – has the added benefit of working to increase the availability of renewable energy in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
Community Energy chief executive Brent Alderfer said: “We are pleased to work with Amazon Web Services to build the largest solar farm in Virginia and one of the largest east of the Mississippi. This project, which wouldn’t have been possible without AWS’ leadership, helps accelerate the commercialization and deployment of solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies at scale in Virginia.”
Earlier this week Green America, a US-based environmental advocacy group, said Amazon is far behind other datacentre operators – including some of its large competitors like Google, Microsoft, Apple and Facebook – in terms of its renewable energy use and reporting practices. Google and Apple have been particularly strong in using or generating renewable energy to power their datacentres, with Apple committed to a number of large solar projects globally.
The group launched a campaign this week aimed at convincing Amazon to alter its environmental strategy. It is calling on Amazon to commit to full use of renewables for its datacentres by 2020 (AWS hasn’t set a target date publicly); submit accurate and complete data to the Carbon Disclosure Project; and issue and annual sustainability report.