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Amazon’s AWS backs Virginia solar project

An Amazon affiliate is teaming up with Community Energy for the construction of an 80MW solar farm to power its data centres.

Amazon Web Services (AWS), a subsidiary of US e-retailer Amazon, is partnering with renewable energy developer Community Energy for the construction and operation of an 80-megawatt (MW) solar farm in Virginia, the Seattle-based company said in a statement.

Once completed, Amazon Solar Farm US East will supply clean energy to current and future AWS Cloud data centres. Slated for completion in October 2016, the facility is expected to produce about 170,000 megawatt-hours of energy annually – enough to power 15,000 homes.

The project, which will be the largest solar farm in Virginia, is part of AWS' plan to power its data centres exclusively with renewable energy, an initiative the company unveiled last November. According to AWS, as of April 2015, approximately 25 percent of the power consumed by its global infrastructure comes from renewable energy sources; the company hopes to reach at least 40 percent by the end of 2016.

In January, AWS announced the first project within the context of this initiative, partnering with Pattern Development to support the construction and operation of Amazon Wind Farm (Fowler Ridge), a 150MW plant in Benton County, Indiana.

“We continue to make significant progress towards our long-term commitment to power the global AWS infrastructure with 100 percent renewable energy,” AWS' vice president of infrastructure Jerry Hunter said. “Amazon Solar Farm US East – the second PPA [power purchase agreement] that will serve both existing and planned AWS data centres in the central and eastern US – has the added benefit of working to increase the availability of renewable energy in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

AWS did not specify the role of each partner, the size of its investment in each project nor the target date for achieving 100 percent renewable energy usage. The company declined to comment.

Amazon is not the only technology company undertaking such an initiative. Google, the US technology giant, has invested more than $1.5 billion in renewable energy projects around the world to date, with a total planned capacity of 2.5 gigawatts. It too aims to eventually operate on 100 percent renewable energy.