As one of the world's largest tech giants, Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) obviously requires massive amounts of electricity to run its business. But as long as that's true, the online retail juggernaut intends to minimize its carbon footprint as much as possible. In fact, late last year, Amazon outlined a long-term goal of achieving 100% renewable energy usage for Amazon Web Services' infrastructure. As of April 2015, the company had already reached 25%.
But earlier this week, Amazon took its biggest step yet toward that 100% goal by announcing it has contracted Iberdrola Renewables to build and operate a 208 megawatt (MW) wind farm in Perquimans and Pasquotank counties, North Carolina. The site -- to be aptly dubbed "Amazon Wind Farm US East" -- will be North Carolina's first utility scale wind farm, and will generate roughly 670,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of wind energy each year starting December 2016. That's enough to power more than 61,000 homes per year, and the energy will be delivered directly into the electrical grid that supplies current and future AWS Cloud data centers.
Business as usual?
That's not to say Amazon hasn't already had a busy year on the renewable energy front. The latest project comes on the heels of another significant announcement last month, when Amazon revealed it has teamed with Community Energy to support construction and operation of an 80 MW project in Accomack County, Virginia called "Amazon Solar Farm US East." This solar farm is expected to begin generating roughly 170,000 MWh of solar power each year as early as October, 2016.
If that wasn't enough, this past January, Amazon kicked off 2015 by announcing it will partner with Patton Energy Group to build and run a separate 150 MW wind farm in Benton County, Indiana. This one will be called "Amazon Web Services Wind Farm (Fowler Ridge)," and should begin generating around 500,000 MWh of wind power annually as early as January 2016.
Renewable energy farms aren't the only way Amazon is working to be more green. Amazon also says it's "continuously working on ways to increase the energy efficiency of its facilities and equipment." And in April 2015, Amazon announced a pilot test of Tesla's new energy storage batteries designed to supplement occasional intermittent production from its wind and solar farms given the constant power needs of its datacenters. Also in April, Amazon joined both the American Council on Renewable Energy and the U.S. Partnership for Renewable Energy Finance to work with policymakers to create more opportunities for both it and other cloud service providers to use renewable energy.
But however ambitious each of Amazon's renewable energy projects are to date, they all pale in comparison to the sheer size and scale of Amazon Wind Farm US East. Thanks to its massive contribution, Amazon is now on track to reach at least 40% renewable energy usage by the end of 2016.
Full steam ahead
Amazon also has no intention of slowing down. "We're far from being done," insisted Jerry Hunter, Amazon Web Services' VP of Infrastructure. "We'll continue pursuing projects that deliver clean energy to the various energy grids that serve AWS data centers, we'll continue working with our power providers to increase their renewable energy quotient, and we'll continue to strongly encourage our partners in government to extend the tax incentives that make it more viable for renewable projects to get off the ground."
This also means Amazon Web Services is not only trying to minimize the financial outlay required to enable these projects to happen, but should also benefit over the long run through lower costs to maintain and operate its ever-growing facilities and data centers. That Amazon is also encouraging competing cloud services companies to follow suit should win it favor -- or at the very least make up for some past favor lost -- among the socially responsible investing crowd.
For investors willing to weather the required near-term spending in favor of Amazon's long-term renewable energy goals, I think Amazon's sustained renewable energy push is great news.