Equinix may not be a household name, but the leading global data-center company supports the services that consumers rely on every day, from cloud-computing platforms, to global financial centers, to video-streaming services. Now it will provide that support in California on an emissions-free basis.

Today, the $2.5 billion company signed a major power-purchase agreement for 105 megawatts (AC) of newsolarpower with SunEdison. The purchase will cover all of the electricity needs at Equinix’s 11 California data centers, which amounts to 300 megawatt-hours per year. 

The deal brings the company’s total use of renewable energy from 30 percent to 43 percent globally. Earlier this year Equinix announced a commitment to procure 100 percent renewable energy for its entire fleet of 105 data centers across 33 markets around the world.

“Whether you are a believer in climate change or not, it’s the right thing to do -- to operate our businesses by the cleanest means we can,” said David Rinard, senior director of global sustainability and procurement for Equinix, in an interview. 

Renewables are competitive with any other resource, he said. Along with being a simple economic decision, increasing renewable energy adoption helps attract new customers trying to meet their corporate sustainability goals, while also supporting cleaner communities and appealing to the company’s young, tech-savvy employees. 

The Mount Signal Solar II project will be built in San Diego Gas & Electric territory near Calexico, California starting this year. The project will have a total capacity of 150 megawatts and achieve commercial operation in the second half of 2016.

Equinix was offered an unusually short five-year solar contract for the project in order to serve as a bridge. Last year, Southern California Edison agreed to purchase energy from the Mount Signal Solar II project under 20-year PPA contract starting in 2020. The deal announced today allows SunEdison to move forward with the installation while federal tax credits are still in place.

The short-term contract was also beneficial for Equinix as it explores the best ways to meet its 100 percent renewable energy target. “This is our first big contract of this nature, so the term was also interesting to us because it’s a little less risky,” said Rinard.

The contracting process was complicated and required a lot of custom accounting to make it pencil out, he said. But through the process Rinard’s team published several internal white papers that will inform future contracts.

Equinix also hopes to lead by example as a new signatory to the World Resources Institute and World Wildlife Fund Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers' Principles. It is also a member of the Rocky Mountain Institute's Business Renewables Center, an initiative aimed at accelerating corporate renewable energy procurement.

“The shared goal of our community is to add another 60 gigawatts of wind and solar energy by 2030, and we need more companies like Equinix to blaze the trail,” said Herve Touati, managing director of the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Data centers are energy hogs, which has made energy efficiency and fuel-free alternatives especially appealing to center operators, including Google, Apple and Amazon. A recent survey found that 84 percent of data-center owners are seriously considering an investment in renewable energy.

Equinix has already deployed a 342-kilowatt PV solar system at one of its facilities in Singapore. The company is currently in the process of installing a 1-megawatt fuel-cell system from Bloom Energy at one of its Silicon Valley data centers. Equinix will pay to fully offset the fuel use with biogas.