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Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

Amazon to Power Data Centers With Renewable Energy


For years, Amazon has received criticism of its environmental policies. In 2012, an article published in the Guardian pointed out that Amazon hadn’t published a sustainability report. Try looking for one on Amazon’s website, and you still can’t find it. However, last summer Amazon hired Kara Hartnett Hurst, CEO of the Sustainability Consortium, as its first sustainability executive. And this month, the company made a big announcement concerning renewable energy.

Amazon Web Services is planning to buy the energy generated by a 150 megawatt wind farm in Benton County, Indiana, the company announced last week. The wind farm, called the Amazon Web Services Wind Farm (Fowler Ridge), is expected to start generating power by January 2016. It will generate enough electricity, 500,000 megawatt hours, to power about 46,000 homes a year, and will be used to run both current and future AWS Cloud data centers.

Over a million customers use AWS services, including startups, large enterprises and government agencies in 190 countries. Back in November, AWS shared its target to use 100 percent renewable energy for the global AWS infrastructure footprint. The 13-year power purchase agreement (PPA) for the wind farm will help the company meet its goal.

The wind farm, with a planned site totaling 50,000 acres, will be built by Pattern Energy Group. Pattern Energy has 12 wind projects in its portfolio that total 1.6 gigawatts, but this is its first wind project in Indiana.

“Amazon Web Services Wind Farm (Fowler Ridge) will bring a new source of clean energy to the electric grid where we currently operate a large number of data centers and have ongoing expansion plans to support our growing customer base,” said Jerry Hunter, vice president of infrastructure at Amazon Web Services, in a statement.

“This PPA helps to increase the renewable energy used to power our infrastructure in the U.S. and is one of many sustainability activities and renewable energy projects for powering our data centers that we currently have in the works.”

From sustainable packaging to sustainable buildings

Amazon’s website details its environmental measures. One of those measures is Frustration-Free Packaging, which is 100 recyclable and allows products to be shipped in their own packages without extra shipping boxes. It eliminates hard plastic cases and plastic-coated wire ties, which are commonly used in toy packaging. Amazon also ships orders to customers in corrugated containers that contain 43 percent recovered fiber content on average. They are also 100 percent recyclable.

Amazon also incorporated sustainability into its corporate headquarters in Seattle. The buildings that make up the headquarters contain salvaged and locally-sourced woods, energy efficient lighting, and composting and recycling alternatives. Six of the buildings have achieved LEED Gold certification. Amazon.de’s corporate offices in Munich, Germany, have also achieved LEED Gold certification. Four of Amazon’s fulfillment centers in Indiana, Pennsylvania and Arizona have also achieved LEED certification.

Image credit: Vibha Bamba

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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