Amazon is backing Virginia’s largest solar farm to power its data centers in the state. The $150 million project will help the company achieve its goal to use 100 per cent renewable energy sources at its global cloud computing operations.
Govenor Terry McAuliffe announced that Community Energy Solar will construct the 100-megawatt project, which will be located in southeast Virginia in Southampton County.
“Once complete, the new Southampton facility will be the largest solar farm ever constructed in Virginia,” McAuliffe said in a statement. “The pace of solar deployment has increased exponentially in recent years and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. With projects like this, we’re building both the new Virginia economy and a better future for our children.”
The solar project is the largest of clean energy investments by giant U.S. technology companies in recent months. Energy conscious businesses are increasingly turning to alternative energy sources such as solar and wind — to both reduce their overall climate change emissions and cut down on their energy bills.
Apple Inc. recently bought nearly $850 million in solar power contracts for its new headquarters in Silicon Valley in the U.S. In October 2015, the company announced it would build 200-megawatts of solar energy projects in China and work with local suppliers to source more renewable energy for its manufacturing facilities.
Google Inc. has spent more than $1.5 billion globally on clean energy projects to power its offices and infrastructure, and the company says it uses renewables to power 35 per cent of its operations.
Energy policy analyst, Devashree Saha said “I think it makes economic and financial sense for these tech companies. As wind and solar markets have grown in the past few years, the cost of building and running renewable energy projects, along with the price of renewables, has come down substantially.”
Amazon and other leading tech companies are facing pressure from environmental associations and their clients to cut down greenhouse gas emissions and reduce electricity usage from their high consumption data centers. In the U.S. data centers used around 91 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2013. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimated that this is the equivalent of running 34 large coal-fired power plants for a whole year.
Companies are also investing in clean energy as the costs of solar and wind power decrease, making renewable energy an attractive option for large energy users. According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, the average U.S. price for solar energy has dropped from about 15 cents per kilowatt-hour a decade ago to about 5 cents today.
Amazon also has a power purchase agreement for the 80-megawatt Amazon Solar Farm U.S. East — a Community Energy project in Accomack County.
“Amazon Web Services’ leadership and continued commitment to large scale solar energy is a key catalyst for this exciting new industry in Virginia.” Brent Beerley, executive vice president of Community Energy Solar, said in a statement.