Amazon expands renewables ambition with new solar rooftop pledge

Online retailer Amazon Web Services has pledged to deploy large-scale solar systems across 50 fulfillment and sortation centres globally by 2020, with deployments this year set to generate 41MW of renewable energy for the company.

Amazon announced on Thursday (2 March) that 15 fulfillment centres in California, New Jersey, Maryland, Nevada and Delaware will be fitted with rooftop solar arrays. According to Amazon, each installation could generate as much as 80% of a single centre’s annual energy needs.

“As our fulfillment network continues to expand, we want to help generate more renewable energy at both existing and new facilities around the world in partnership with community and business leaders,” Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide operations Dave Clark said.

“We are putting our scale and inventive culture to work on sustainability—this is good for the environment, our business and our customers. By diversifying our energy portfolio, we can keep business costs low and pass along further savings to customers. It’s a win-win.”

The company created a 100% renewable energy commitment in 2014. To date, Amazon has instigated renewable energy construction projects totalling 3.6m MW and the 15 fulfillment centres to be equipped with solar this year will generate 41MW. The remaining 35 centres, which span across the globe, will be equipped with the arrays by 2020.

The end of 2016 saw Amazon exceed an incremental goal of sourcing 40% of its demand from renewable energy, and a new 50% target has been set for the end of 2017. No timeframe has been set for the 100% goal.

Recent renewables projects from Amazon includes the development of a 150MW wind farm in Benton County, Indiana, a 208MW wind farm in North Carolina, which was the first utility-scale wind farm in the state, and the firm’s largest wind farm in Texas, which looks set to generate 1,000,000 megawatt hours when it goes live later this year.

Amazon was announced as the leading corporate purchaser of renewable energy in the US in 2016 by the State of Green Business report. The company is also delivering renewable energy back to the grid in North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia. Other projects include the District Energy Project, which recycles energy to heat Amazon headquarters in Seattle.

The company has also announced an expansion to its Career Choice programme, which aims to improve funding for associates to earn certifications in the energy industry. Amazon is targeting funds towards the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certification.

Transparency discrepancies

In 2015, Amazon locked horns with Greenpeace after the charity claimed the online retailer’s renewable energy commitments “lacked basic transparency”. Amazon was awarded an ‘F’ grade in a “Clicking Clean” report for its energy transparency, after failing to respond to a Greenpeace request for energy data.

The 2017 version of the report appreciates Amazon’s commitment to renewable energy, awarding it an overall ‘C’ grade, but noted that a lack of transparency continues to be its “greatest barrier” to building consumer trust in relation to its 100% renewable energy goal.

Matt Mace

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