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Like all Internet Giants, Amazon Wants to Accelerate the Solar Boom

The Internet giants are doing more than lobbying for low-carbon rules. They are advancing the cause by investing in new technologies. Amazon is the latest to do so, saying that it will install rooftop solar systems at 15 locations in five different states this year and that it is planning to deploy solar systems on 50 fulfillment and sortation centers globally by 2020.

The combined capacity of the initial solar projects that will go up this year will be 41 megawatts. The facilities where the solar systems will go will be in California, Delaware, Maryland, Nevada and New Jersey, it says. Amazon adds that the projects could produce as much as 80% of a location’s annual electricity.

“As our fulfillment network continues to expand, we want to help generate more renewable energy at both existing and new facilities around the world in partnership with community and business leaders,” said Dave Clark, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Operations, in a formal statement. “We are putting our scale and inventive culture to work on sustainability—this is good for the environment, our business and our customers. By diversifying our energy portfolio, we can keep business costs low and pass along further savings to customers. It’s a win-win.”

The company has invested in wind energy as well in locations around the country: Ohio, Indiana and Texas, to name three. Altogether, it said that it will generate 3.6 million MWh of renewable energy.

Internet giants are voracious consumers of energy, not just to keep the lights on but to power their data centers as well.

Last December, Google said it would be using carbon offsets this year to pay for the renewable energy programs it plans to implement at its data centers. Intel is doing the same.

“We are involved up and down the value chain,” says Mike Bates, global energy director for Intel, whose company’s data centers are starved for energy. It’s about helping the United States reduce its carbon emissions. And it’s also about creating goodwill in the communities where Intel operates as well as among the customers who buy its products.

America’s Internet dynamos have pledged to consume nearly all of their electricity from sustainable sources. Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft filed a brief favoring the Clean Power Plan, which aims to cut carbon emissions by 32% by 2030. The four own more than 50 data centers in 12 states. 

The high-tech companies “have committed to consuming energy in an environmentally responsible way and, specifically, to reducing the carbon footprint associated with their operations,” says their brief. “Because the Clean Power Plan reflects reasonable expectations about the operations of the electricity market and the increasing use of renewable energy,” the group supports the plan.

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