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Amazon Invests Big in Wind Power

GinaMarie headshotWords by Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Energy & Environment

Amazon is more than just an online store. It’s a company that invests in renewable energy. Amazon Web Services (AWS) recently announced that it contracted with Iberdrola Renewables to build and operate a 208 megawatt wind farm in North Carolina's Perquimans and Pasquotank counties. When completed, it will be the first utility-scale wind farm in the state.

Called the Amazon Wind Farm U.S. East, it is expected to come online in December 2016. It will generate approximately 670,000 megawatt hours of wind energy a year. That's enough to power over 61,000 American homes annually. The energy will be delivered to the electrical grid that supplies AWS Cloud data centers.

In November 2014, AWS announced its commitment to achieve 100 percent renewable energy use globally. In April, the company announced that about 25 percent of the power it used globally comes from renewable energy. The goal is to increase that figure to at least 40 percent renewable energy use by the end of 2016.

In January, AWS announced a renewable energy project called the Amazon Wind Farm (Fowler Ridge) in Benton County, Indiana. It is expected to generate 500,000 MWh of wind power a year, or the annual energy usage of 46,000 American homes, and is expected to come online in January 2016. The energy generated will also be used to help power AWS Cloud data centers.

AWS doesn’t just invest in wind power to help meet its renewable energy goals. Last month, the company announced a solar power project called Amazon Solar Farm U.S. East in Virginia, which is expected to generate 170,000 MWh of solar power a year. It is expected to come online in October 2016 and will be the largest solar farm in Virginia with all energy generated powering AWS Cloud data centers.

Combined with the North Carolina wind farm project, Amazon’s renewable power projects will deliver over 1.3 million MWh of power, or enough energy to power 15,000 American homes a year.

The huge potential for wind power in the U.S.

Amazon’s investment in wind farms is smart given the big potential for wind power in the U.S. Currently, wind power generates enough electricity to power over 11 million American homes, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). In some months, wind power generates 6 percent of the nation’s electricity -- but that doesn't begin to touch its potential. Some experts think wind power could generate 30 percent of electricity needs in the U.S.

Investing in wind power is one way to reduce carbon emissions. Climate science experts say that carbon emissions need to be reduced to from the current 400 parts per million (ppm) to 350 ppm in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. So, wind power, and renewable energy in general, is good for the environment and the economy. The current wind power sector provides jobs for at least 75,000 Americans. A 250 MW wind farm (about 100 turbines) creates 1,073 jobs over the lifetime of the project. That's the ole triple bottom line at work.

Image credit: Flickr/Warrenski

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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