Higher Power

Amazon announces Virginia solar farms project.

Amazon Solar US-East-1 on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

Photo courtesy of Community Energy Solar

With one 80-megawatt unit already installed on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, online web services giant Amazon is upping the ante by pledging to build an additional five solar farms in the Commonwealth. While representatives have not said yet when it will happen, Amazon is planning to build the farms to offset electricity usage in its NoVA data centers as part of a longterm policy, which states the company’s goal to eventually be powered 100 percent by renewables.

An Amazon spokesman says the move will allow the company to meet its 2017 benchmark of meeting half of its overall global infrastructure electricity demands through the use of renewable energy sources. Additionally, the facilities in Virginia make Amazon the largest corporate backer of solar projects east of the Mississippi River.

“We continue to ramp up our sustainability efforts in areas where availability of renewable energy sources is low or proposed projects are stalled, and where the energy contribution goes onto the same electric grid that powers data centers,” Amazon Web Service vice president of infrastructure Peter DeSantis said in a November 2016 press release announcing the Virginia projects.

Four of the Virginia plants will be 20-megawatt units—including Amazon Solar Farm U.S. East 2 in New Kent, Amazon Solar Farm U.S. East 3 in Buckingham, Amazon Solar Farm U.S. East 4 in Sussex and Amazon Solar Farm U.S. East 5 in Powhatan. Additionally, there will be a larger a 100-megawatt unit installed in Southampton County, Amazon Solar Farm U.S. East 6.

The plants are being developed in partnership with Dominion; the utility magnate will own, operate and service the plants, while Amazon agrees to purchase the electricity they generate.

In a 2015 statement announcing the granting of a building permit for the first of the Amazon-backed plants, Governor Terry McAuliffe said: “The partnership … will result in the largest solar facility in the Mid-Atlantic [and] is indicative of the types of opportunities that my administration is working toward through our commitment to build a new Virginia economy. The solar energy industry holds tremendous potential for economic growth in Virginia in the coming years, and I look forward to bringing more projects like this to the Commonwealth.”

Including an additional 208-megawatt plant currently under development in North Carolina, a Dominion spokesman says that by 2020 the utilities company will be generating 260 megawatts of solar capacity for Amazon—that is, enough electricity to power around 65,000 homes and businesses in Virginia and North Carolina.

According to DeSantis, while he looks forward to the completion of the Virginia plants in 2017, Amazon is nowhere near finished. “We will continue to make progress toward our 100 percent [renewable energy] goal and have many exciting initiatives planned for the future.” CommunityEnergySolar.com

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