Microsoft announced on Wednesday that it had signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for 315 megawatts (MW) of energy from the 500 MW Pleinmont I and II solar farms in Virginia, calling it the “single largest corporate purchase of solar energy ever in the United States.”
The 500 MW Pleinmont I and II solar farms are located in the US commonwealth of Virginia and is its largest solar project, equal to the total amount of solar currently generated in Virginia. The project will also rank as the fifth largest solar project in the United States upon completion. Owned and set to be operated by sPower, Pleinmont I and II will be made up of more than 750,000 solar panels installed across more than 2,000 acres and will produce approximately 715,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) per year.
The deal announced by Microsoft will see the company secure 315 MW of the energy generated by Pleinmont I and II to help power its local datacenters and office buildings, as well as its work bringing connectivity to all citizens through broadband technology. The Pleinmont I and II deal also marks Microsoft’s second solar deal in Virginia following the March 2016 agreement to secure Renewable Energy Certificates from Dominion Energy’s 20 MW Remington Solar Farm.
“Today, we’re signing the largest corporate solar agreement in the United States, a 315 megawatt project in Virginia that will move us ahead of schedule in creating a cleaner cloud,” said Brad Smith, president, Microsoft. “This project means more than just gigawatts, because our commitment is broader than transforming our own operations; it’s also about helping others access more renewable energy.”
“Microsoft’s participation is a game-changer for this project and for other buyers,” added Ryan Creamer, CEO of sPower. “Their early commitment helped ensure that the project continued to move forward and come to fruition at a time of regulatory uncertainty. Microsoft’s large off-take also helped us offer very cost-competitive options for other buyers looking at our Virginia portfolios. This model broadens the ability for buyers of all sizes to participate in a large project like this, yet only take the megawatts they need for their business goals. We’re proud to be working with Microsoft on this innovative approach.”
The new PPA also signals a significant milestone for Microsoft as it has now met its target of powering at least 50% of its datacenters with clean energy by 2018, and puts it well on the path towards its next goal of achieving 60% by early 2020. It also comes hot on the heels of two March announcements by Microsoft in which it secured two global PPAs, one in Singapore and its first in India.
The move by Microsoft is also being hailed by those in Virginia who see this as a big step towards solidifying the commonwealth’s position as a solar leader.
“Today’s announcement demonstrates that Virginia is quickly becoming a global leader in the clean energy industry,” said Governor Ralph Northam. “When companies like Microsoft invest in Virginia solar, they opt for clean and reliable energy as well as new jobs in the energy economy we are working hard to build. I am proud that Microsoft is expanding its commitment to solar energy in Virginia, and I look forward to building upon this victory for clean energy and the jobs that come with it.”
“This announcement is groundbreaking for advanced energy in Virginia,” added Harrison Godfrey, executive director of the business group Virginia Advanced Energy Economy. “Not only will this investment nearly double the amount of installed solar capacity in the Commonwealth, but with it Microsoft and sPower will also provide a new way for other energy purchasers to buy into, and benefit from, the secure, clean, affordable energy these solar facilities provide.”
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