Technology giant Microsoft signed a 15-year Power Purchase Agreement this week for the electricity generated at the 90 megawatt (MW) Big Level wind facility currently under construction in Pennsylvania, being developed by renewable energy producer TransAlta Renewables.
The Calgary-based TransAlta Renewables bills itself as among the largest of any publicly traded renewable independent power producers in Canada and boasts interests in 20 wind facilities, 13 hydroelectric facilities, 7 natural gas facilities, one solar facility, and one natural gas pipeline, with an ownership interest of nearly 2.5 gigawatts (GW). The company announced on Monday that it had signed a 15-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Microsoft for the electricity to be generated from the 90 MW Big Level wind farm currently under construction in the township of Hector, Pennsylvania.
“This project advances our North American growth and investment strategy,” said TransAlta Renewables President John Kousinioris. “Microsoft is a leader in procurement of renewable energy and a catalyst for change in how corporate customers can control their energy procurement. We’re pleased to collaborate with them on a project that suits their needs and helps them to achieve their sustainability and carbon reduction objectives.”
The Big Level wind facility will not only serve Microsoft’s needs in the region, but it will bring direct investment, jobs, landowner lease payments, tax benefits, and clean energy to Pennsylvania, to Hector Township in particular. Specifically, TransAlta expects to generate 100 full-time equivalent jobs during construction and provide the communities in the vicinity of the project with over $8 million in tax benefits and community payments over the life of the project.
Big Level is the third PPA Microsoft has signed within the PJM Interconnection — the regional transmission organization (RTO) that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in all or parts of Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Overall, Microsoft’s renewable energy portfolio now consists of 1.2 GW, based in six states and on three continents. The PJM Interconnection is home to several Microsoft facilities which will now benefit from increased clean energy in the region.
“Working with companies like TransAlta to bring new projects online, especially wind projects in states outside the Wind Belt, is good for our business, the community and the clean energy economy,” said Brian Janous, General Manager of Energy and Sustainability at Microsoft. “We’re pleased to enter a new state in the PJM region and take another step toward our goal of enabling a clean energy future for everyone.”
“We are thrilled that TransAlta Renewables and Microsoft have decided to invest in Pennsylvania,” added Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary Dennis Davin. “This project will further Pennsylvania’s role as a leader in renewable energy, while supporting the development of a cleaner and more diverse energy economy.”
The move comes as part of Microsoft’s larger vision to cut emissions by 75% by 2030 against a 2013 baseline, announced in November of 2017.
“We’ll do this through continued progress against our carbon neutrality and renewable energy commitments, as well as investments in energy efficiency,” said Smith in a blog post published last November. “This puts Microsoft on a path, as a company, to meet the goals set in the Paris climate agreement, which is a level of decarbonization that many scientists believe is necessary to keep global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius. We estimate this will help avoid more than 10 million metric tons of carbon emissions by 2030.”
In addition to various PPAs signed in Europe, Microsoft followed this up in March with what it described as the “single largest corporate purchase of solar energy ever in the United States” for 315 MW of the electricity generated from the 500 MW Pleinmont I and II solar farms in Virginia.