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Amazon joined existing big-name tech companies last year when it committed to running its cloud-based “Amazon Web Services (AWS)” technology entirely on renewable energy. Though that promise remains a lofty long-term goal, the company is making new inroads to meet its commitment: Amazon has signed a 13-year partnership with Pattern Energy Group to “support the construction and operation of a 150 megawatt (MW) wind farm,” the company revealed today in a press release.
The new wind farm will be built in Benton County, Indiana, and will be called — drum roll — the “Amazon Web Services Wind Farm (Fowler Ridge).”
Plans are afoot to start generating around 500,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of power from as early as January 2016. For context, the average residential electricity consumer in the U.S. used around 10,837 kWh in 2012, or 903 kilowatthours (kWh) per month. So Amazon estimates that its new farm will help power the equivalent of around 46,000 homes each year.
Amazon Web Services doesn’t power homes, though, it provides businesses with access to cloud computing technology. AWS was originally built for Amazon’s own increasing cloud-based server needs, however it subsequently realized the datacenters could also serve other companies. AWS has been used by many brands you no doubt know and love — including Spotify and Netflix.
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But in a Greenpeace report last year on “clean” Internet companies, Amazon didn’t fare well at all. The report said:
“AWS has dropped further and further behind its competitors in building an internet that runs on renewable sources of energy, estimated at only 15%, and is the least transparent of any company we evaluated.”
Given that other technology firms have previously pledged their futures to renewable energy, with the likes of Apple investing in solar farms, Microsoft buying wind energy, and Google following similar pursuits, Amazon has appeared slow on the uptake.
However, Amazon has said that it plans to power its AWS datancenters entirely from 100 percent renewable energy, so the power purchase agreement (PPA) announced today between Amazon and Pattern Energy is a step closer towards achieving this.
Amazon does have so-called “carbon-neutral” regions already, kicking off with Oregon back in 2011. This was followed by a new data center in Frankfurt, Germany, while AWS GovCloud for U.S. government agencies is also sold as being kind to the environment.
But as Greenpeace has previously noted, Amazon is “the least transparent of any company we evaluated,” so it’s difficult to tell exactly how Amazon powers its data centers around the world, even in the carbon-neutral zones.
While the company already taps a number of renewable energy resources for AWS, including wind, we now know it will soon have a dedicated wind farm in the U.S. The company has also revealed how much power it hopes to generate using the turbines, so if it continues to announce specific details such as this moving forward, Amazon could see itself attain a much loftier position when the next Greenpeace report comes along.
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