Amazon on Monday said it will buy power from three future wind projects, two of them in Europe and the third in the U.S., while signaling that more deals could be coming soon. The announcement marks a return to the corporate renewables market for one of the biggest buyers of years past.
The tech giant will back 229 megawatts of new wind capacity from projects in Ireland, Sweden and California to serve Amazon Web Services’ fleet of data centers. The wind farms will be built over the next two years.
A 91-megawatt wind farm will be built in Donegal, in the Republic of Ireland, while a similarly sized project will be built in Bäckhammar, Sweden — near the windy coast of Vänern, the largest lake in the European Union.
Meanwhile, a smaller wind farm will be built in the Tehachapi Mountains of Southern California, near the load center of Los Angeles. The Tehachapis are home to the largest wind farm in the U.S. — Clearway Energy’s 946-megawatt Alta Wind complex — but the area has seen a slowdown in development in recent years, mirroring a slowdown in wind development across California.
Amazon declined to reveal the developers behind the projects. In the past it has worked with a range of developers, from small players like Virginia Solar LLC to renewables powerhouses like Avangrid and EDP.
Amazon was an early and enthusiastic adopter of renewable energy among U.S. corporations, throwing its weight behind a number of landmark wind and solar projects in the 2015-2016 timeframe. The company has slowed its procurements over the past few years as it digested its earlier projects, but that might be about to change.
“We expect more projects in 2019 as we continue toward our goal of powering all [Amazon Web Services] global infrastructure with renewable energy,” Peter DeSantis, vice president of global infrastructure and customer support at AWS, said in a news release.
The new trio of wind farms will add to Amazon’s existing portfolio of nine utility-scale renewables projects, totaling more than 1,000 megawatts. AWS has a long-term target of reaching 100 percent renewables across its global footprint, and is already halfway there.
Pool of corporate buyers diversifying
2018 was a record year for corporate renewable-energy procurements, in the U.S. and globally, as the cost of wind and solar continued to fall and more companies grew comfortable with the complexities of buying power.
Corporate and industrial procurement accounted for 22 percent of all solar and wind power-purchase agreements signed in the U.S. last year, and deal sizes are getting larger, according to Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables.
Technology companies and data-center operators remain the backbone of the corporate renewables market. Facebook procured more renewables than any other company last year, according to the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Business Renewables Center.
But the pool of buyers is broadening to include companies in telecoms, retail, manufacturing — even oil and gas. AT&T was the second-largest buyer last year, signing 820 megawatts' worth of wind PPAs with North America’s leading renewables developer, NextEra Energy. And ExxonMobil signed PPAs for 500 megawatts of wind and solar in Texas' Permian Basin with developer Lincoln Clean Energy, acquired recently by Danish utility Ørsted.
While wind has dominated the U.S. corporate renewables market to date, thanks to its very low cost in states like Texas and Oklahoma, solar is catching up in terms of new corporate PPAs signed — and is likely to make rapid gains over the next few years as the main federal wind subsidy phases out, analysts say.