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Amazon to build second wind power plant in Ireland to support AWS green cloud push

Amazon sets out plans to ramp up availability of green power in Ireland and US, as its push to make its datacentre fleet run in a more sustainable way continues apace

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is building a second wind farm in Ireland that is on course to start generating 68,000 megawatt hours of renewable energy for its public cloud datacentres from 2020.

The 23.2 megawatt capacity wind farm will be located in Cork, in the south-west of Ireland, and is the latest in a string of investments the cloud giant and its parent company’s online retail arm has made in the region over the past decade and a half.

These include the opening of its Irish datacentre region in 2007, which the wind farm will be used to power, but the firm has also built offices, a customer support centre in Ireland and hired thousands of people in the region to staff these sites.  

Kara Hurst, director of sustainability at Amazon, said the investment in its Irish wind farm is a show of the firm’s ongoing commitment to reducing its carbon footprint globally, while also addressing its pledge to eventually have its entire global datacentre portfolio powered by renewables.

“Playing a significant role in helping to reduce the sources of human-induced climate change is an important commitment for Amazon,” said Hurst.

In line with this, the company has also announced plans to build its seventh solar farm in the Commonwealth of Virginia, which is expected to generate 100,000 megawatts of power annually and is due to go live next year.

“Major investments in renewable energy are a critical step to address our carbon footprint globally. We will continue to invest in these projects, and look forward to additional investments this year and beyond,” added Hurst.

Amazon’s commitment to using renewable energy has previously, and repeatedly, been called into question by environmental groups, including Greenpeace, which have taken issue with the company’s strategy of not setting a deadline by which its entire datacentre fleet will be 100% sustainably powered.

Many of its competitors, meanwhile, have publicly set themselves deadlines by which they hope to have their cloud datacentres exclusively powered by renewable energy sources, with Google claiming to have hit this milestone in 2017.

Microsoft, meanwhile, recently published a revised timeline to ensure that 70% of its facilities will be powered by renewables by 2023, having hit its previously stated 50% target a year earlier than planned.

Outside of Amazon’s own corporate social responsibility pledges, the company also has local pressures that appear to be driving the expansion of its support for renewables in Ireland specifically, as detailed by Richard Bruton, Ireland’s minister for communications, climate action and environment.

“Under the Climate Action Plan, we are committing that 70% of Ireland’s electricity will come from renewable sources by 2030. Industry leadership is key to helping us reach this target,” he said.

“This project is another example of AWS’s commitment to renewable projects in Ireland, adding clean energy to the grid, and supporting Ireland’s climate commitments. Construction will begin on this project this year and will start contributing to Ireland’s renewable energy capacity by 2020.

“We look forward to continuing to work with AWS as we strive to make Ireland a leader in the renewable energy space,” he added.

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