Economic Benefits

Amazon.com the latest to see wind’s value

Amazon.com the latest to see wind’s value

Image via Flickr user soumit with a Creative Commons license.

Technology companies and other non-utility entities have been purchasing wind power for years now, and the trend is only accelerating.

This week, Pattern Energy Group entered into a 13-year power purchase agreement (PPA) to supply electricity for Amazon Web Services (AWS),  Amazon.com’s cloud-computing venture. The energy will come from Pattern’s 150 MW Fowler Ridge IV Wind project in Indiana, which will be renamed Amazon Web Services Wind Farm (Fowler Ridge). Pattern Development expects to begin construction in April on the facility, which is slated to go online in late 2015 or early 2016.

The PPA is a significant step toward AWS meeting its commitment, announced in November, to achieve 100 percent renewable energy usage. The energy generated by Amazon Web Services Wind Farm (Fowler Ridge) will be used to help power both current and future AWS Cloud datacenters, Amazon said.

“Amazon Web Services Wind Farm (Fowler Ridge) brings 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 AWS Vice President of Infrastructure Jerry Hunter.

Hunter’s comments concerning the proximity to data centers highlights a common theme among tech and other companies interested wind energy. Many of them like wind both because it makes good business sense and it also fits with their corporate values. Google is one of the most visible proponents and earliest adopters of the strategy, having already invested hundreds of millions of dollars into several wind farms such as EDF Renewable Energy’s Spinning Spur Wind Project in Texas.

On the wind industry side, meanwhile, Pattern Energy apparently sees these wind power purchasers as a growth opportunity. Prior to adding Amazon to its list of customers, the project developer-owner already had inked deals with both Google and, last summer, big-box retailer Wal-Mart.

But the biggest segment of non-utility wind power purchasers seems to be tech companies that operate data centers. Microsoft also said it will purchase all 175 MW of capacity from the Pilot Hill Wind Project. The wind facility is located about 60 miles south of Chicago, home to—you guessed it—one of Microsoft’s power-hungry data centers.

 

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