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Kansas Wind to Power Yahoo's Great Plains Operations


Yahoo on Oct. 16 announced that it signed a 15-year partnership with OwnEnergy to develop a Kansas wind farm. Able to generate more than 100,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity, the wind farm will feed into the Southwest Power Pool and offset much of Yahoo's energy usage in the Great Plains region, according to joint press releases.

The Kansas wind farm is the latest demonstration of Yahoo's commitment to local community development, as well as reducing its carbon and environmental footprints. “Although we are a global company, we are deeply invested in the communities in which we live and work,” Chris Page, Yahoo's global director of energy and sustainability strategy, and Brett Illers, project manager of  sustainability and energy efficiency programs, wrote in a Yahoo Blog post.

“We are proud to support this type of community-centric energy project through direct engagements from mid-sized local wind farms."

Kansas wind power

With the second highest wind potential in the U.S., wind power is capable of meeting Kansas's current electricity needs more than 90-times over, according to a study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

In 2013, wind power accounted for 19.4 percent of Kansas's electricity supply, ranking it third among U.S. states. Installed wind power capacity in Kansas doubled in 2012 alone with the addition of 1,441 megawatts. Kansas wind farms now supply enough emissions-free electricity to power more than 870,000 average American homes, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Attracting some $5.5 billion in investment capital, wind power has also directly created between 3,000 and 4,000 green jobs across the wind power supply chain, from manufacturing to wind farm operations and maintenance. As of 2013, annual land lease payments from wind farms have totaled more than $7.9 million.

In addition to eliminating nearly 3.96 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, which pollute the air and drive climate change, wind power also comes with other substantial environmental benefits. According to the AWEA, producing electricity from wind turbines saves more than 2 billion gallons of water per year.

Commenting on Yahoo's 15-year power purchase agreement, OwnEnergy founder and CEO Jacob Susman stated:

“It’s great to see a leading tech company like Yahoo working to expand the use of renewable energy, and its involvement in this project will enable us to generate both local jobs as well as financial upside for members of the Rush County community.

“OwnEnergy’s business model taps into the entrepreneurial spirit of farmers, ranchers and landowners across the United States, providing them with economic opportunities, operational resources and industry expertise necessary to develop a source of clean, renewable energy,” added Susman. “We look forward to working with an industry leader like Yahoo, a company that shares our commitment to clean energy and to supporting the economic prosperity and social well-being of local communities across the country."

Community-supported wind power

Founded in 2007, OwnEnergy has developed a pipeline of more than 25 community-supported energy wind farm partnerships across 23 U.S. states. OwnEnergy and Mortenson Construction on Nov. 14 completed construction of the Windthorst II Wind Farm some 110 miles northwest of Dallas, Texas.

Windthorst II marked the sixth wind farm OwnEnergy has developed and spun off and its seventh overall. BlackRock purchased a majority interest in the wind farm in December 2013.

Installing 28 Siemens 2.4-megawatt wind turbines on the site, Windthorst II marked the 140th project Mortenson has completed or is in the process of erecting.

Green power and resource efficiency at Yahoo

Yahoo, along with its peers among the world's Internet industry leaders, is “constantly looking for ways to incorporate cleaner and renewable sources of energy into our global operations, whether that is through wind, solar, or hydropower,” Page and Illers highlighted.

In partnership with Bloom Energy, Yahoo this past summer installed a five-module fuel cell at its corporate headquarters in Sunnyvale, California. It's also planning to install a solar photovoltaic (PV) array.

Yahoo's expanding phalanx of data centers is where most of the company's power usage and emissions originate. Yahoo is working to be a leader in data center energy and natural resource efficiency, as well, Page and Illers noted. The company's Yahoo Compute Coop (YCC) data center design employs passive cooling to reduce energy and water consumption by 40 percent as compared to traditional data center designs, they highlighted.

*Image credits: 1) Yahoo; 2) U.S. EIA; 3) OwnEnergy

Andrew Burger headshotAndrew Burger

An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.

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