Internet e-commerce and cloud-computing giant Amazon announced three new wind energy projects on Monday, which will serve to help the company further its long-term goal of powering Amazon Web Services (AWS) global infrastructure with renewable energy.
Amazon revealed that it will purchase electricity from three new wind farms — one in Ireland, one in Sweden, and one in the United States — which together have a combined capacity of 229 megawatts (MW) and are expected to generate over 670,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of renewable electricity each year. Committing to buy electricity from these projects is not just beneficial for Amazon, but serves as a long-term support mechanism for the project’s themselves, helping to drive further investment necessary for construction and operation.
“Each of these projects brings us closer to our long-term commitment to use 100% renewable energy to power our global AWS infrastructure,” said Peter DeSantis, Vice President of Global Infrastructure and Customer Support, Amazon Web Services. “These projects are well-positioned to serve AWS data centers in Ireland, Sweden, and the US. We expect more projects in 2019 as we continue toward our goal of powering all AWS global infrastructure with renewable energy.”
Amazon will purchase electricity in Ireland from a 91.2 MW in Donegal, in northwestern Ireland, which is expected to be completed no later than the end of 2021.
“AWS’s investment in renewable projects in Ireland illustrates their continued commitment to adding clean energy to the grid and it will make a positive contribution to Ireland’s renewable energy goals,” said Leo Varadkar, An Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland. “As a significant employer in Ireland, it is very encouraging to see Amazon taking a lead on this issue. We look forward to continuing to work with Amazon as we strive to make Ireland a leader on renewable energy.”
Amazon will also purchase 91 MW of power from a new wind farm in Bäckhammar, Sweden, located in the country’s south, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.
“Sweden has long been known for ambitious renewable energy goals, and this new wind farm showcases both our country’s leadership and AWS’s commitment to renewable energy,” said Anders Ygeman, Sweden’s Minister for Energy and Digital Development. “This is a significant step in Sweden’s renewable energy production as we work toward our target of 100 percent renewable energy by 2040.”
Finally, Amazon will also purchase electricity from a 47 MW wind farm in California’s Tehachapi Mountains, which is expected to also begin delivering power by the end of next year.
“This announcement from AWS is great news, not just for California, but for the entire country, as it reaffirms our role as a leader in renewable energy and allows us to take an important step forward on deploying the clean energy we need to respond to climate change,” said California State Senator Jerry Hill, San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications.
Amazon’s announcement this week comes at an important time for the company as it faces questions about its commitment to sourcing renewable energy to power its data centers. In the middle of February, Greenpeace took aim at Amazon in a new report which claimed that “the expansion of Amazon and other cloud computing giants in Virginia’s ‘Data Center Alley’ is further fueling climate change with new demand for dirty energy.” Specifically, Greenpeace claimed that Amazon was foregoing its commitment to renewable energy while still greatly expanding its data center capacity.
“Despite Amazon’s public commitment to renewable energy, the world’s largest cloud computing company is hoping no one will notice that it’s still powering its corner of the internet with dirty energy,” said Greenpeace USA Senior Corporate Campaigner Elizabeth Jardim, speaking in February. “Unless Amazon and other cloud giants in Virginia change course, our growing use of the internet could lead to more pipelines, more pollution and more problems for our climate.”
And just this week, tech website Gizmodo reported on “internal [Amazon] company documents viewed by Gizmodo” which showed efforts by Amazon to win over the oil and gas industry. According to Gizmodo’s Brian Merchant, “Over the last two years, as Amazon’s clean energy promises have stalled out, Earth’s most customer-centric company has aggressively courted the fossil fuels industry, landing deals and partnerships with companies like BP, Shell, and Halliburton, offering data-based services such as machine learning for enhanced exploration, internet of things-enabled oilfield automation, and remote site data transportation.”
I reached out to Amazon for comment on the Gizmodo report but its spokesperson ignored the request, pointing instead to existing comments made in the company’s press release announcing its three new wind projects.
“Greenpeace welcomes Amazon Web Service’s announcement that it has again begun purchasing renewable energy for its rapidly growing data center operations after nearly a three year gap,” said Greenpeace Senior IT Analyst Gary Cook, responding to comment on Amazon’s news. “Since its last renewable energy project was announced in 2016, AWS has dramatically expanded its global fleet of data centers, most notably in Virginia where the majority of its data centers are located. As recently highlighted in Greenpeace’s Clicking Clean Virginia report, AWS is estimated to have added 626MW of data center capacity over the past three years in Virginia alone.
“The question is whether the three renewable projects announced today are evidence of a enduring commitment to 100% renewable energy by Amazon, or another temporary flash in the pan.
“If Amazon is to be taken seriously about its commitment to power its cloud with renewable energy, it must begin by taking action to prevent its data center expansion from driving new investments in fossil fuels,” Cook concluded. “Amazon is already one of the largest electricity customers in Virginia, and its continued expansion there is being used by the local utility Dominion Energy to justify the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a massive new fracked gas pipeline that will have the greenhouse emissions footprint of 20 coal power plants.”