Published: June 16, 2015


Megan Treacy

Fresh off Greenpeace’s report card last month that showed Amazon lagging far behind other tech companies when it comes to renewable energy generation and transparency about how it plans to meet energy goals, the internet giant has announced another renewable energy project. The company will build an 80-megawatt solar farm in Virginia, the largest solar project in the state so far, to help power its Amazon Web Services data centers in the area.

The solar farm called Amazon Solar Farm US East will be built in partnership with Community Energy and will help clean up the environmental impact of Amazon’s Virginia data centers since the state is largely powered by coal. The new solar farm in Accomack County could start feeding clean energy to the data centers as soon as October 2016 and will deliver about 170,000 megawatt-hours of electricity, or enough to power 15,000 homes.

Last January, Amazon announced that it was also building a 150-megawatt wind farm in Benton County, Indiana. It will be called the Amazon Web Services Wind Farm (Fowler Ridge) and should generate the equivalent energy of that used by approximately 46,000 US homes.

Amazon has also committed to finding a way to 100 percent renewable energy. It said in April that 25 percent of its energy needs were being met by renewable energy sources and that by 2016 that number will be 40 percent, but it has a long way to go.

Its Amazon Web Services (AWS) platform is used by the biggest online companies out there like Huffington Post, The New York Times, Buzzfeed, Pinterest and Tumblr, to name just a few, which means the AWS data centers require a lot of energy and it’s going to take more than a couple renewable energy installations to get the company to 100 percent.

Although Amazon hasn’t released numbers on its total energy demand, Greenpeace has estimated that the new solar farm will only cover a single-digit percentage of the energy demands of its Virginia data centers.