Amazon Building 80 Megawatt Solar Farm In Virginia To Power Datacenters

As part of its commitment to achieving 100 percent renewable energy usage for its global footprint, Amazon this week announced that it has partnered with Community Energy to build and operate an 80 megawatt solar farm in Accomack County, Virginia. They'll call it Amazon Solar Farm U.S. East and expect it to generate around 170,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of solar power each year beginning in October 2016.

That's enough energy to power around 15,000 U.S. homes in a year. Amazon said it will be the largest solar farm in Virginia, but rather than use the energy it harnesses to power households, it will all go into the electrical grids that supply both current and future Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud datacenters.

Installing Solar Panels

Towards its goal of achieving 100 percent renewable energy usage, Amazon is a quarter of the way there. The massive e-commerce and cloud services company hopes to reach 40 percent by the end of 2016. In addition to solar energy, Amazon also uses wind power that it purchases from a wind farm in Benton County, Indiana as part of an agreement it inked in January of this year. The wind farm is expected to generate around 500,000 MWh of annual wind power.

"We continue to make significant progress towards our long-term commitment to power the global AWS infrastructure with 100 percent renewable energy," said Jerry Hunter, Vice President of Infrastructure at Amazon Web Services. "Amazon Solar Farm U.S. East – the second PPA that will serve both existing and planned AWS datacenters in the central and eastern U.S. – has the added benefit of working to increase the availability of renewable energy in the Commonwealth of Virginia."

This is a move Amazon needed to make. The company's been criticized for being slow to adopt clean energy, versus companies like Google and Apple that jumped on the bandwagon several years ago. It's also been pressured by AWS customers, including Netflix, which noted in a blog post earlier this year that the majority of the technology behind its streaming service is operated in the AWS cloud platform.