Numerous political observers have remarked upon President Trump's efforts to roll back policies and programs of the Obama administration, especially when it comes to energy. However, the transition to renewable energy is not stopping. A case in point is a data center in Nevada, which is now using power from two massive new solar farms thanks to an Obama-era program that set aside federal land for solar energy development.
The Switch company briefly crossed the TriplePundit radar back in 2015, when we noted that it operated the single largest collection of data centers in the world, located in Las Vegas.
That puts Switch front and center in the issue of data center sustainability. Energy consumption by data centers has become a major point of concern, especially with the advent of cloud computing.
Leading companies like Amazon have been taking steps to reduce their data center energy use and use more renewable energy, and many of them are turning to Switch for help. Here's an explainer from Switch:
The Switch Sustainability Initiative has driven all Switch data centers in North America to be run by 100% renewable energy. Switch’s issued and pending patent innovations in design, power, cooling and density resulted in significant efficiencies and outstanding annual PUE ratings.
In a statement marking the official commissioning of the two solar farms, Clark County Chairman Steve Sisolak affirmed the role of renewables in economic growth:
The Switch Station solar projects are a great example of how our commitment to renewable energy has helped to stimulate economic growth in the County. The solar projects created hundreds of construction jobs and economic benefits, and the use of our abundant natural resources are fueling long-term, high-tech job creation centers such as Switch.
The availability of clean power in Nevada has attracted top shelf tech companies like Tesla and Google, which is anticipating building a new data center without delaying its renewable energy commitment. The Google property, located near Reno, is also being talked up as a location for testing the company's Waymo autnomous vehicle initiative.
The Solar Energy Zones were launched under the Obama administration 2013, with the aim of streamlining leases for renewable energy development on federal lands.
Clean power or not, renewable energy development is not free of impacts, and the SEZ initiative was controversial. Nevertheless, the Bureau of Land Management designated a score of SEZ's on federal land. Five are located in Nevada and the others are distributed among Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.
As of 2016, some of the lease auctions for the zones did not receive any interest. The Dry Lake Zone in Clark County was one that did, with the result that three projects were awarded leases for solar development in 2015.
No word on what happened to all of the projects, but the two Switch solar farms were approved for construction in 2016 under the developer First Solar, and acquired by EDF in the summer of 2017 while work was still under way.
The acquisition sparked this comment from EDF:
The acquisition of Switch Station 1 and Switch Station 2 marks EDF RE's entry into Nevada, a state with world-class solar resources where we plan to build additional projects in the coming years...
Trump's own Energy Secretary recently fast-tracked a major new hydropower transmission line for New England, which will help put a final nail in the coffin of coal power for that region.
In another striking example, states along the entire Atlantic coast are on the verge of exploiting their vast offshore wind energy potential.
As for EDF, the company's plans for Nevada are the tip of a renewable energy iceberg. EDF foresees $3 billion in new capital investments across the country within the next several years.
That investment outlook presents an interesting contrast with AT&T, which has faced blowback over linking its own $1 billion investment pledge to passage of the new tax bill championed by President Trump -- but that's a whole 'nother can of worms!
Image (screenshot): Data center via Switch.
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. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.