Amazon to fund a big wind farm in Indiana

Source: BY Robert Ferris, CNBC • Posted: Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Amazon has struck a deal to fund the construction of a wind farm in rural Indiana, as part of plan announced by the company in November to power its massive cloud computing business with renewable energy.

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Amazon Web Services is one of the largest providers of cloud computing services, with a long list of customers that includes names such as Johnson & Johnson, Dole, Siemens, and Netflix (as well as NBC Universal’s parent company, Comcast). The company already operates three carbon-neutral regions—one in Oregon, one in Frankfurt, Germany, and the AWS GovCloud region in the Northwestern United States. However, this is its first publicly announced wind farm, and the first major renewable energy project the company has announced since committing in November to power its cloud computing division with renewable energy.

For the next 13 years, Amazon will buy the bulk of the output from a wind farm that Pattern Energy plans to build in Indiana. The company estimates it will draw about 500,000 megawatt hours from the farm, enough to power about 46,000 homes, according to a report released by Pattern Energy. The project may be completed as early as January 2016.

“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 report released by both Amazon and Pattern Energy.

Amazon is far from the first major company to turn to renewable energy to power its facilities. In fact, it drew criticism from Greenpeacefor lagging behind cloud computing providers such as MicrosoftGoogle and Rackspace, as well as other tech companies, such as Appleand Facebook. Greenpeace analyst Gary Cook said he hopes this new deal is “just the beginning.”

“From what I have seen so far, this is a good step,” Cook said. “They kind of quietly announced this commitment to using renewable energy back in November, so it is great to see them them taking real steps to make good on that. They are starting a bit late compared to some of their peers, especially Google, who has been signing these contracts since 2010.”

He added that Amazon has been far less transparent about its energy policies than many of its tech industry peers.

Among Google’s renewable contracts is a $75 million deal it made with Pattern Energy in early 2014 to buy power from a wind farm in Texas.

One of Amazon’s retail competitors, Wal-Mart, is already by far the largest corporate buyer of solar capacity in the United States and recently signed a 10-year deal with Pattern Energy to buy nearly 60 percent of the output from the Logan’s Gap wind farm, also in Texas.

Representatives from Amazon and Pattern told CNBC they did not have any details beyond what is already publicly available.