Technology giants are making strides towards a sustainable cloud: in the past two weeks, HP, Facebook and Amazon announced significant investments in wind energy.
HP’s first utility-scale renewable energy purchase involves a 12-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with SunEdison for 112 megawatts (MW) of wind energy, which will power 100 percent of its Texas-based data center operations.
The PPA will enable HP to reach its 2020 emissions goal — to reduce operational GHG emissions by 20 percent of 2010 levels — five years ahead of schedule. Locally generated wind electricity will power five data centers in Texas across roughly 1.5 million square feet, equivalent to powering 42,600 homes and avoiding 340,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually.
“This agreement represents the latest step we are taking on HP’s journey to reduce our carbon footprint across our entire value chain, while creating a stronger, more resilient company and a sustainable world,” said Gabi Zedlmayer, VP and chief progress officer of Corporate Affairs at HP. “It’s an important milestone in driving HP Living Progress as we work to create a better future for everyone through our actions and innovations.”
SunEdison has begun construction on the South Plains II wind farm in Texas, which is expected to create over 400 local construction jobs and up to 15 permanent jobs once the project is complete. The project will also create local economic benefits such as land lease payments and property tax revenues.
HP’s wind purchase followed Facebook’s announcement earlier this month that the social network will build a $1 billion data center, also in Texas, powered 100 percent by renewable energy. The data center will employ power from a wind farm currently under construction on 17,000 acres of Texas land.
And just last week, Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced it will invest in a North Carolina wind farm, though the size of the investment and details of the project have not been disclosed.
Under many PPAs, tech companies commit to buying the renewable energy produced by a project over a period of time, sell the energy on the wholesale market and apply the energy credits to the power consumed by data centers. It remains unclear whether Amazon is using this scheme for its most recent investment.
Greenpeace, which has been urging further transparency from tech companies, particularly about AWS’s renewable energy projects, raised questions on the merits of the new project.
“Will the power from this North Carolina wind farm be delivered to the utilities that provide electricity to Amazon’s data centers in Virginia?” Greenpeace spokesperson David Pomerantz asked in a statement. “Without an answer, AWS customers cannot be certain that the wind energy is displacing the gas, coal, and nuclear energy powering those data centers.
“More information is needed especially because Amazon’s main utility provider in Virginia, Dominion, is pursuing expansions of gas and nuclear power plants, justified by the growth of data centers like Amazon’s,” he said.