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Tina Casey headshot

Amazon's Jeff Bezos Doubles Down on Wind Energy

By Tina Casey

The U.S. Energy Department released a new report predicting a huge drop in the cost of wind energy by 2030, but Amazon is not waiting around for that to happen. The company is already heavily invested in wind energy and just signed on to buy 90 percent of the output from a new 235-megawatt wind farm in Scurry County, Texas.

The news comes with an interesting political twist. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is a huge fan of renewable energy. He also recently purchased the Washington Post, and was largely credited with galvanizing the languishing publication into reporting aggressively on the 2016 presidential election cycle.

That approach prompted GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump to attack Jeff Bezos and his ownership of the Post during the heat of the primary season. To complete the circle of twists, Donald Trump is no fan of renewable energy in general, and wind energy in particular.

Amazon hearts wind energy

Amazon's wind energy ventures first crossed the TriplePundit radar last year, when the company announced an agreement with Ibderdrola Renewables for a 208-megawatt wind farm in North Carolina.

Amazon also has an interest in wind farms in three other states: Indiana, Ohio and Virginia.

The new Texas wind farm, dubbed Amazon Wind Farm Texas, will be the company's largest renewable energy project so far. The developer, Lincoln Clean Energy, is an up-and-comer in the wind industry. According to our friends at Fuel Fix, Lincoln already has two Texas wind farms to its credit and it is moving ahead with two more projects in the 200-megawatt range. It also has fingers crossed for a third Texas project that tops 200 megawatts.

Amazon's Texas wind farm is due to come online toward the end of next year, with more than 100 turbines generating about 1 million megawatt-hours annually. According to Amazon, that's enough to power about 90,000 typical U.S. homes.

The project is particularly interesting because it involves large wind turbines that have a rotor diameter Amazon compares to the wingspan of a Boeing 747. The new Energy Department report indicates that a continued drop in wind energy costs will be largely due to just that factor -- namely, larger wind turbines.

All together, Amazon's wind projects in Texas, North Carolina, Indiana, Ohio and Virginia will generate more than 2.6 million megawatt-hours annually. The idea is to counterbalance the existing and predicted demands on the grid that Amazon anticipates from its cloud-based Amazon Web Services data centers.

Amazon committed to 100 percent renewable energy for its infrastructure globally, and the new project will get the company closer to that goal. Amazon was up to 25 percent as of April 2015, and it expects to close in on 40 percent by the end of this year.

As for why Amazon is such a big fan of wind and solar, the looming global warming crisis is only part of the equation. Aside from that, the importance of engaging with more stable, reliable energy sources has come into sharp focus this week, on the heels of yet another major pipeline spill that is bringing high prices, long lines and empty pumps to gas stations all over the southeastern U.S.

Texas hearts wind energy

If Texas and wind energy don't sound like they go together, you might have some catching up to do. Texas has iconic status in the history of U.S. oil and gas development, but it didn't stop there. After propelling the nation into the fossil fuel landscape of the 20th century, Texas has become a main driver of the transition to renewable energy.

That's particularly true of the state's wind industry, but wind farm development is only part of the equation. The other, equally important factor is the construction of the billion-dollar CREZ wind energy transmission line, to bring the juice from those far-flung wind farms into urban centers.

For his part, Bezos doesn't seem ready to slow down any time soon. Last time we checked, he was looking forward to relocating energy-sucking, heavy industrial activities into space, where they could be powered 24/7 by the sun.

In recognition of Emmy night, let's also give a shout-out to Jeff Bezos for Amazon Studio's "Transparent," which just won a bunch of trophies.

Photo courtesy of Lincoln Clean Energy

Tina Casey headshot

Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes.

Read more stories by Tina Casey