American telecommunications giant AT&T has announced it has signed a new 300 megawatt (MW) Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Florida-based electricity supplier NextEra Energy Resources to accompany a previous 520 MW deal signed in February.
In early February, AT&T announced the signing of one of the largest corporate renewable energy purchases in the United States, committing to purchase 520 MW worth of wind energy from two new wind farms in Oklahoma and Texas through NextEra Energy Resources. Specifically, the telecom will secure 220 MW worth of wind power from the Minco V Wind Farm located in Caddo County, Oklahoma, and another 300 MW from a wind farm in Webb and Duval Counties in Texas.
“As one of the world’s largest companies, we know how we source our energy is important,” said Scott Mair, President, AT&T Operations, at the time. “Many companies are focused on their own carbon footprint but we believe our industry can do more. We’ve been working for a long time to ensure our wind projects deliver for both our business and the environment. We will continue to explore renewable energy solutions to help create a better, more sustainable world.”
Announced late last week, AT&T expanded its agreement with NextEra by signing another PPA with the electricity supplier, this time for 300 MW from two new wind farms set to be developed in Wilbarger and Hardeman Counties, Texas. The announcement was made at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Webb county wind farm at the same time that AT&T announced they were creating a scholarship program for students who are interested in pursuing careers as wind turbine technicians — a sector AT&T described as “one of the fastest-growing jobs in the US” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Collective, the 820 MW that AT&T has agreed to purchase from NextEra is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking 530,000 cars off the road, and provide clean electricity equivalent to the needs of over 372,000 homes each year.
“We’re going big on renewable energy. It’s a clean, abundant, renewable source of home-grown power,” said Joe Taylor, vice president of global tech optimization and implementation, AT&T. “As one of the world’s largest companies, our investments can help scale this critical energy source for America’s transition to a low-carbon economy.”
AT&T also boasted that the investments it is making in renewable energy will help to create numerous jobs and economic benefits — including as many as 1,000 construction jobs in Texas and Oklahoma for the wind farms it has signed on to, which are also expected to generate nearly $190 million in property tax revenues for the surrounding local communities, and over $167 million in lease payments to landowners.
“We are pleased to work with AT&T to expand the reach of renewable energy and provide a significant economic boost to local communities, both in Texas and Oklahoma,” explained Kevin Gildea, NextEra Energy Resources’ vice president of development. “Wind energy is helping drive the clean energy economy, providing new and exciting job opportunities in rural communities as well as millions of dollars in additional revenue with which to help enhance schools, roads and other essential services.”
AT&T’s new Wind Energy Scholarship fund will take the form of a $50,000 contribution to Texas State Technical College (TSTC) to provide financial assistance for students earning a wind energy degree or certificate, but will be exclusively eligible to students from counties where AT&T have backed a wind farm — so far that means only Webb, Duval, Wilbarger, and Hardeman counties. Further, NextEra Energy Resources has guaranteed graduates from the TSTC program an interview for future wind technician positions as they become available, as well as internship opportunities.
“We welcome the opportunity to educate, expose, and equip our students with dynamic skill sets stemming from the benefits of a career in renewable energy,” said Beto Gonzalez, superintendent of Webb Consolidated Independent School District. “We are grateful to both NextEra Energy Resources and AT&T for their generous contributions to establish one of the nation’s first high school wind energy programs and for creating a new and exciting career path for our students.”
In the space of only a few months, therefore, AT&T has made an impressive commitment to sourcing clean energy for its operations. In March of this year ethical consumerism non-profit Green America announced its Wireless Scorecard and graded AT&T a C-, which included an F for “Current Clean Energy Sourcing” and a ‘C*’ for “Clean Energy Commitment” — with the * representing the fact that AT&T had already announced their 520 MW PPA.
“Green America is pleased that AT&T has committed to an additional 300 Megawatts of wind energy,” said Todd Larsen, Executive Co-Director for Consumer & Corporate Engagement, to me via email. “This is another important step forward for the company in shifting away from fossil fuels to power it massive networks and servers. AT&T can build on this important step forward by announcing a 100 percent commitment to renewable energy with a clear timeline for reaching this important goal.”
While it will be some time before we find out, one wonders whether AT&T has made enough progress so far this year to earn some extra credit next year. I asked Todd Larsen this question, and it looks like AT&T still has some more work to do to earn a higher grade: “Green America provides one letter grade for companies setting a goal and timeline for reaching clean energy and any new commitments. AT&T has not done the goal and timeline yet, but if it did, its grade would improve further – currently their grade is based on commitments they are making. We provide a separate grade for actual renewable energy purchased – so this is energy that is on line. As AT&T purchases more renewable energy, that grade will continue to go up.”
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