The farm, in the heart of Texas’ wind country, will yield a million megawatt hours of electricity a year, enough to power 90,000 households. It represents a more than 60 percent jump in the generation capacity of the renewable-energy projects announced by Amazon so far.
Amazon.com said Thursday it plans to build a mammoth wind farm in West Texas — the company’s biggest to date — as it endeavors to clean up its energy diet.
The farm, in the heart of Texas’ wind country, will yield a million megawatt hours of electricity a year, enough to power 90,000 households.
With more than 100 turbines, it represents a more than 60 percent jump in the generation capacity of the renewable-energy projects announced by Amazon so far.
Amazon has been building solar and wind farms, mainly in the Midwest and the Eastern seaboard, in large part to offset with renewable power generation the consumption of its energy-hungry data centers, home to the biggest cloud-computing operation in the world.
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Amazon Web Services (AWS), the company’s cloud-computing unit, estimates that 40 percent of its power will come from renewables by the end of this year, up from 25 percent in April of 2015. In the long run, AWS wants to run on 100 percent renewable energy.
The Texas wind farm won’t help toward that specific goal because Amazon has no data centers connected to Texas’ stubbornly independent electrical grid. At least not yet.
But Amazon does have plenty of power-hogging infrastructure in the Lone Star state, where as of the end of the first quarter, it employed some 10,000 full-timers. Logistics consultant MWPVL International, which closely tracks Amazon locations, counted 10 facilities in the state, from small package-sortation facilities to million-square-foot distribution centers.
The Texas wind farm, to open in late 2017, is Amazon’s fifth renewable-energy project. There are others in Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia.
Texas, traditionally known for its oil riches, is the largest wind-energy producer in the U.S., according to the American Wind Energy Association. There are more than 10,000 wind turbines — huge windmill-like structures as large as a passenger jet — in the windy prairies of the northwestern part of the state. About 10 percent of the state’s electricity production came from wind installations in 2015, the association said.
The conversation around sustainability is frequent among tech giants such as Amazon, Microsoft, Apple and Google, all of which operate large data centers. Global greenhouse-gas emissions stemming from these facilities is expected to grow by an average of 7.1 percent a year between 2011 and 2020, according to the Global e-Sustainability Initiative, an industry group.
In the case of Amazon, sustainability is all the more important because of the company’s breakneck expansion, not only in technology, but in fulfillment and operations. That means not only more warehouses sending out more cardboard packages, but also more fuel spent on shipments and more office space.
Amazon says it’s testing solar and fuel-cell installations in some fulfillment centers; in Seattle’s new downtown campus, it recycles energy from a neighboring data center that’s not owned by Amazon.
The company also has a “sustainability” organization, which is currently hiring for a packaging engineer, an environmental data specialist as well as data scientists and program managers.
But unlike many other large companies, Amazon doesn’t put out a detail corporate-sustainability report, and has been criticized by Greenpeace for lack of transparency about its energy use and carbon footprint.