Categories: Green-ITInnovation

AWS Has Unveiled A Colossal Wind Farm To Power Its Data Centres

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has revealed plans to build a massive wind farm in North Carolina that will generate 670,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of wind energy every year.

AWS is the cloud computing division of retail giant Amazon, and is in many metrics the market leader when it comes to public cloud computing.

The 208 megawatt wind farm, to be located in Perquimans and Pasquotank counties, North Carolina, will be known as the Amazon Wind Farm US East, and will start producing power in December 2016.

Data centres

When finished, Amazon said that it will be the first utility-scale wind farm in North Carolina, and the electricity generated will power both existing and planned AWS data centres in Virginia and Ohio. AWS has contracted Iberdrola Renewables LLC to construct the wind farm.

Last year, AWS committed itself to running its cloud by 100 percent renewable energy at some point in the future, but the firm has been criticised by rivals and green campaigners such as Greenpeace for not being transparent enough with its green credentials.

But Jerry Hunter, vice president of infrastructure at AWS, said that the wind farm will put AWS on track to surpass its goal of using 40 percent renewable energy globally by the end of 2016.

“We’re far from being done,” said Hunter. “We’ll continue pursuing projects that deliver clean energy to the various energy grids that serve AWS data centres, 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.”

North Carolina Governer Pat McCrory welcomed the news. He said: “This kind of collaboration between Amazon and Iberdrola Renewables promotes North Carolina’s continued economic growth and highlights the importance of supporting the ongoing expansion of the technology sector in our state.”

Green targets

In June, several Amazon Web Services customers sent an open letter requesting the online retailer’s cloud computing division divulge more information about its renewable energy usage.

Tumblr, Hootsuite and are among the customers featuring on the letter, addressed to Andrew Jassy, Amazon’s senior vice president of web services.

The letter pleads with AWS to commit to transparency on energy and environmental performance, including publishing information describing AWS’ energy and carbon footprints and progress toward renewable energy goals.

Shortly after this, a new campaign group was established  to push the cloud computing service to shift to clean energy sources for its servers by 2020.

Launched by environmental lobby group Green America, the campaign is called “Amazon: Build a Cleaner Cloud” and argues that in its focus on climate change and low-carbon energy use, Amazon lags behind most companies – including Apple, Google, and Facebook – that operate large-scale data centres.

Green America’s campaigns director Elizabeth O’Connell said: “Every day, tens of millions of consumers are watching movies, reading news articles, and posting to social media sites that all use Amazon Web Services. What they don’t realise is that by using Amazon Web Services they are contributing to climate change. Amazon needs to take action now to increase its use of renewables to 100 percent by 2020, so that consumers won’t have to choose between using the internet and protecting the planet.”

A Greenpeace report in May that examined various cloud firms’ renewable credentials lambasted Amazon for not being transparent. Greenpeace said: “Amazon’s adoption of a 100 percent renewable energy goal, while potentially significant, lacks basic transparency and, unlike similar commitments from Apple, Facebook or Google, does not yet appear to be guiding Amazon’s investment decisions toward renewable energy and away from coal.”

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Ben Sullivan

Ben covers web and technology giants such as Google, Amazon, and Microsoft and their impact on the cloud computing industry, whilst also writing about data centre players and their increasing importance in Europe. He also covers future technologies such as drones, aerospace, science, and the effect of technology on the environment.

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