AWS plans 80 MW solar farm in Virginia to power eastern US datacenters

The solar farm is part of AWS' larger goal to power its global infrastructure footprint with 100 percent renewable energy.

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Amazon Web Services (AWS) has announced plans for an 80-megawatt solar farm in Accomack County, Virginia.

Once operational in October 2016, AWS says the Amazon Solar Farm US East will be the largest solar farm in Virginia, generating 170,000-megawatt hours of solar power annually that will be pumped into the electrical grids that power AWS cloud datacenters in the eastern and central US.

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The Virginia solar farm is part of AWS' larger goal to power its global infrastructure footprint with 100 percent renewable energy.

In January the cloud service provider announced plans for a wind farm in Benton County, Indiana, that is expected to produce 500,000-megawatt hours of wind power annually once it's operational in January 2016. AWS also claims to operate three carbon-neutral regions -- US West in Oregon, the US GovCloud, and EU in Frankfurt.

But even with its grand energy commitments, AWS is still highly criticized -- mostly by the environmental organization Greenpeace --for its lack of transparency surrounding energy consumption and the way it sources renewable energy.

For one, Amazon's energy timeline is a lot blurrier than those outlined by Apple, Google and IBM. Beyond the dates set for the solar and wind farms, Amazon has not publically committed to a renewable energy deadline.

AWS does say it expects to run its infrastructure on 40 percent renewable power for by the end of 2016. So far approximately 25 percent of the power consumed within its global datacenters comes from renewable energy sources, according to a recent blog post by AWS cloud chief Jeff Barr.

In the lengthy post, Barr acknowledged a recent Greenpeace energy report that blasts AWS for being stuck in the "dirty energy past" and accuses the cloud provider for having taken "few or no steps to switch to renewables".

As for Barr's rebuttal: "On average, AWS customers use 77 percent fewer servers, 84 percent less power, and utilize a 28 percent cleaner power mix, for a total reduction in carbon emissions of 88 percent from using the AWS Cloud instead of operating their own data centers."

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