The mighty wind powers many high-tech giants

All the companies in the EPA's latest ranking of top 20 high-tech users of electricity generated by green sources (led by Intel) use wind-generated electricity.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

It's kind of hard not to think about wind energy today, as I watch the 100-year-old trees outside my home office window in New Jersey bend in the approach of Hurricane Sandy. Three hours to go to the center of the storm hits us…  This is not looking good.

I know I'm living on borrowed time when it comes to whether or not I have electricity in order to do this, but for now I'm trying to distract myself by writing. 

So, I just spent some time looking at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's latest ranking of the top U.S. technology and telecommunications companies when it comes to buying green power.

There are a lot of references to wind on this list.

That isn't very surprising, considering that wind energy accounted for about one-third of the new power added to the U.S. grid in 2011. 

The future of wind generation in the country is very much in question because of a political fight over the wind production tax credit, which is supposed to expire at the end of the year.

But for now, wind is doing its part to keep topping off the U.S. electric grid (although today it will probably take power away for a lot of people on the east coast).

Fact: every single one of the top 20 companies on the EPA's special tech-industry green power list is using wind as part of their energy portfolio – which isn't the case for any other type of clean energy source.

The EPA includes wind, small-hydro, biomass, solar, geothermal and other renewable sources in its green power definition. They don't have to invest in on-site generation technology to make the list – they could also get there by partnering with a utility company or by buying renewable energy certificates (RECs) or some combination of these three strategies.

So who's on this list? Many usual suspects, including Intel – which is king of the National Top 50, as well as this list.

It buys 2.8 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power every year through RECs and on-site generation. That's about 89 percent of its annual electricity consumption.

Here's the rest of Top 5:

Microsoft, 1.12 billion kWh (46 percent)

Cisco Systems, 269 million kWh (27 percent)

Sprint, 176 million kWh  (5 percent)

Dell, 119 million kWh (29 percent)

What's equally interesting to me is who is NOT in this Top 20.

For starters, Google has dropped off after being No. 6 on the July 2012 version of this list with about 103 million kWh of green power. I find myself wondering if someone forgot to report its numbers, since the company has been a real leader when it comes to investing in alternative energy sources.

There's no sign of Facebook, either, even though the company has more recently started amping up its alternative energy portfolio. 

Apple IS in the Top 20 and what is interesting is that it is supporting more in terms of green power purchases than the company actually consumes. It buys about 22.6 million kWh from Austin Energy – 138 percent of its annual electricity demand.

Here's hoping that the wind is kinder than expected to the millions of people on the east coast in Hurricane Sandy's path.

If you're trying to distract yourself, here's the EPA's complete list.

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