Earlier this week, Amazon Web Services announced that it was contracting the construction of a 208 megawatt wind farm in North Carolina.
The new Amazon Wind Farm US East is supposed to start generating 670,000 megawatt hours of wind energy a year, beginning in December of 2016. That’s enough energy to power 61,000 U.S. homes for a year, or, according to Amazon Web Services, all of its current data centers in the “US East” region, which is Amazon’s term for northern Virginia, as well as all of the data centers it will eventually build there.
It will be the first utility scale wind farm in North Carolina, sending power to an electrical grid that supplies Amazon Cloud data centers in the region. That grid will also receive power from an 80 megawatt solar farm in Accomack County, Virginia, which Amazon announced in June and hopes to have online by October 2016. Amazon Solar Farm US East, as it will be called, will produce 170,000 megawatt hours of electricity each year; that’s 15,000 homes’ worth.
This is all part of Amazon’s goal of making a wholesale switch to renewable energy in the coming years. Last November, the company announced that it intends to eventually use renewable energy to power 100% of its global infrastructure. In the short term, the goal is 40% by the end of 2016, and Amazon Web Services vice president Jerry Hunter said in a recent statement that the North Carolina wind farm “puts AWS on track to surpass our goal of 40 percent renewable energy globally by the end of 2016.”
According to BusinessWire, Amazon was already drawing 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources as of April 2015. By January 2016, it will be getting another 500,000 megawatt hours of wind power a year (46,000 homes’ worth, for those of you playing the home game) from a new wind farm in Indiana called Amazon Wind Farm Fowler Ridge, which will mostly supply power to data centers in central Ohio.
On the other hand, there’s still a long way to go. At the end of May, Amazon Web Services announced construction of three new data centers near Columbus, Ohio, in a region where between 70% and 85% of electricity is still generated by burning coal. The company didn’t announce the planned power source for the new data centers, but CleanTechnica reported in June that the facilities together could generate new demand of about 480 megawatts, which it says is roughly equivalent to the output of a medium-sized coal plant. That’s raised concerns that the Fowler Ridge wind farm may not be able to keep up.
But the company probably isn’t planning to stop at Fowler Ridge, if its activities in other regions are a good indication of its likely future plans. Amazon is currently setting up a smaller wind farm in Virginia, and in April, it announced a small 4.8 megawatt hour pilot of Tesla’s energy storage batteries, which are designed to be used with intermittent, renewable power sources like wind and solar.