Called out by Greenpeace for lack of transparency, Amazon commits to building solar farm in Virginia to power its data centers

East Sustainability
(Courtesy Flickr/Creative Commons)

(Courtesy Flickr/Creative Commons)

E-commerce giant Amazon is under fire from groups to catch up to its tree-hugging counterparts. To boost its “green” credentials, the company has announced the building of a new solar farm in coal-reliant Virginia to power its numerous data centers in the region.

(Courtesy Flickr/Creative Commons)

(Courtesy Flickr/Creative Commons)

After scoring abysmally in a Greenpeace report that ranked big tech firms by renewable energy achievements and transparency, Amazon announced a partnership with Community Energy on June 10 to build an 80-megawatt solar farm in Virginia’s Eastern Shore in Accomack County. It will be the largest solar facility in the state to date.

Greenpeace called out Amazon in May for not elaborating on its plans to achieve 100 percent renewable energy. “Amazon lags behind its competitors in using renewable energy for its cloud-based computer servers,” Todd Larsen, executive co-director of Green America, told EcoWatch. “Unlike most of its competitors, it fails to publish a corporate responsibility or sustainability reporting, and it fails to disclose its emissions and impacts to the Carbon Disclosure Project. We are calling on Amazon.com to take steps to be transparent about its emissions and to rapidly move to renewable energy.”

In April, Amazon reported that 25 percent of its global infrastructure is powered by renewable energy. Its goal, by 2016, is to raise that figure to 40 percent. The Greenpeace report, Clicking Clean: Building a Green Internet, showed Amazon lagging far behind peers such as Google and Apple, the latter of which runs all of its data centers on renewables and earned a top score in the report.

(Courtesy Wikimedia/Creative Commons)

(Courtesy Wikimedia/Creative Commons)

Amazon’s solar farm will deliver about 170,000 megawatt hours of electricity, enough to power 15,000 homes. While Greenpeace applauded Amazon on its prudent move, the environmental group estimates that the solar farm’s output would suffice to meet only a “single-digit percentage” of Amazon’s total energy demand in Virginia, according to Fast Company.

The tech company’s data centers in that region are the lifeblood of its Amazon Web Services (AWS), used by some of the Internet’s biggest names including The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Pinterest, and Tumblr. The energy demands for such large-scale cloud computing are understandably mammoth.

Last January, Amazon announced that it would build a 150 megawatt wind farm in Benton County, Indiana, which has a higher capacity. Earlier this year, AWS customers including Tumblr, HuffPo, and Hootsuite wrote to Amazon asking it to be more transparent about its environmental reporting.

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