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AWS to build wind farm in North Carolina to power its cloud datacentres

AWS follows up earlier renewable energy pledge by setting out plans to build 208MW wind farm

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has contracted a renewable energy firm to build a 208MW wind farm in North Carolina to provide power to its datacentres.

The cloud services giant has struck a deal with Iberdrola Renewables who will oversee the site’s construction, which is pegged for completion in December 2016 and is expected to generate 670,000MWh of wind energy a year. This, it is claimed, is enough to power 61,000 homes.

The energy generated will be passed into the electrical grid used by AWS to power its current and future fleet of cloud datacentres.

News of the deal follows on from a long-term pledge made by the company in November 2014 that all of its datacentres would eventually be powered by renewable energy sources.

This has already seen the firm embark on a number of similar renewable energy-related projects, including the creation of a wind farm in Indiana that is expected to generate 500,000MWh of wind power each year, as well as forays into the creation of solar power sites.

Response to renewable energy criticism

The company has previously come under fire from environmental campaign groups, including Greenpeace and Green America, for not taking a tough enough stance on sustainability issues.

This has also seen it criticised for not relying enough on renewable energy sources to power its datacentres and for failing to publish transparency reports about the sustainability of its operations.

It is thought around 25% of AWS’ global infrastructure is powered by renewable energy sources, but the company said it hopes to increase this to 40% by the end of 2016, as it works towards its goal of only using green energy to power its operations.

Read more about green datacentres

However, Jerry Hunter, vice-president of infrastructure at AWS, said this latest project means the firm is on course to exceed its 40% target before the 2016 deadline.

“We’re far from being done. We’ll continue pursuing projects that deliver clean energy to the various energy grids serving AWS datacentres,” he said.

“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 tax incentives that make it more viable for renewable projects to get off the ground,” he added.

Frank Burkhartsmeyer, US CEO of Iberdrola Renewables, said: “We are excited to be working with Amazon Web Services and commend the company for its commitment to sustainability. We look forward to collaborating with AWS as we develop and construct North Carolina’s first utility-scale wind farm.”

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North Carolina has been very aggressive about providing incentives to cloud companies to build data centers - AWS, Google, Facebook, NetApp, EMC, several of the large financial institutions. Allows them to reuse the energy infrastructure that was under-utilized when some of the manufacturing left the state.
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