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Data Center Giants Invest in Renewable Energy

20 March 2019
Data Center Giants Invest in Renewable Energy

In 2018, there was 59 power purchase agreement (PPA) deals signed by US corporates for a total of 4.96 gigawatts (GW), the most number of first-time buyers in a single year. Here are the latest developments in renewable energy in the data center sector globally. 

Google and Apple are 100% powered by renewable energy

Google, the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable energy, announced in 2018 that its worldwide operations are now 100% powered by wind and solar, making Google the first public cloud, and a company of its size, to have achieved this feat. Google Senior Vice President Urs Hölzle says that for every kilowatt-hour (KWh) of electricity they consume, they purchase one KWh of renewable energy from a wind or solar farm that was built specifically for Google.

The tech giant is working with groups such as the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance and Re-Source Platform to keep expanding their portfolio of renewables. In a deal with the Tennessee Valley Authority, Google has agreed to buy the entire 150 megawatt (MW) generation capacity of two solar farms, which will power two massive new data centers that Google is building in southeastern United States.  

Apple’s data centers have been running on 100% renewables since 2013. Last year, the company announced that its global facilities across 43 countries are now fully carbon-neutral. Apple will have 1.4GW of renewable energy capacity spread across 11 countries when all of its existing and pending projects are complete. Apple has also extended its 100% renewables commitment to its supply chain.

Facebook will run on 100% renewable energy by 2020

Facebook released that it’s reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 75% and that its global operations will run on 100% renewable energy by the end of 2020. Since its commitment to greener operations in 2013, Facebook has signed PPAs for more than 3GW of solar and wind energy.

Although Facebook’s data centers are heavy consumers of electricity, the social media company claims that they are among the most water and energy-efficient in the world. Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has promised that every new data center that Facebook builds including its recently-opened New Mexico facility will run on 100% renewable energy.

Microsoft makes the largest purchase of solar energy in US

In 2018, Microsoft announced that it had signed a PPA for 315MW of energy from the 500MW Pleinmont I and II solar farms in Virginia, US. This PPA has been touted as the “single largest corporate purchase of solar energy ever in the United States.” The 500MW solar farms, which are owned and set to be operated by sPower, will be the largest solar project in Virginia and the fifth largest in the US when it’s complete. Pleinmont I and II will have more than 750,000 solar panels installed across more than 2,000 acres, and will generate approximately 715,000MWh per year.

Data center developer Digital Realty signs PPA on behalf of Facebook

Digital Realty Trust reported in January 2019 that it has struck an energy deal with a solar farm developer on behalf of Facebook.

The PPA is unusual in that Digital Realty signed the deal for only one client, as opposed to adopting it as its general footprint. It stipulates that Facebook — which leases at least 40MW of data center capacity from Digital Realty in Ashburn, Virginia — will receive all Renewable Energy Credits associated with electricity generated from an 80MW solar installation by SunEnergy1 in North Carolina.

Amazon Web Services criticized by Greenpeace for ‘dirty data crimes’

In contrast to these widespread green efforts, cloud company Amazon Web Services (AWS) has been heavily criticized in a recent report by Greenpeace. Since committing to 100% renewable energy in 2014, AWS has tripled its data center operations in Virginia — a growth that far exceeds the additional electricity supply from its renewable projects, according to the Greenpeace report. A spokesperson from AWS claims the data is inaccurate noting that as of December 2018, Amazon and AWS have invested in 53 renewable energy projects (six of which are in Virginia), totaling over 1,016MW and are expected to deliver over 3,075,636MWh of energy annually. AWS also added that it remains firmly committed in its goal of achieving 100% renewable energy across its global network with the company stating it achieved 50% renewable energy in 2018.

 

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