Amazon announces four new projects to make its data centers greener

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Amazon is launching four new renewable energy projects across the globe in the next couple of years, designed to supply green power for the data centers operated by its cloud computing subsidiary AWS.

Located in Australia, Sweden, Spain and the US state of Virginia, the new projects are expected to produce a combined additional 840,000 MWh of energy every year – enough to power 76,000 homes in the US. In this case, however, the electricity generated will go towards meeting the consumption demand of servers, storage and network equipment in AWS’s infrastructure.

The company will be using solar energy to power the initiatives in Australia, Spain and Virginia and “an onshore wind project” in Sweden. Each project will launch separately throughout 2021 and 2022.

The announcement was flagged by Amazon as evidence that the tech giant is on track to meet its commitment to reach 80% renewable energy by 2024, leading to a 100% renewable energy by 2030.

The e-tailer is already operating 86 renewable energy projects worldwide, to mitigate the electricity demand of data centers and of other infrastructure; the company has installed, for instance, more than 50 solar rooftops on fulfillment centers.

Recently, Amazon also revealed plans to build a new solar farm in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, within the next two years, to power the business’s new headquarters, known as HQ2. HQ2, said the company, is on track to become a “four-million-square-foot campus” that will nevertheless be powered with “100% renewable energy”.

For the time being, however, Amazon is focusing on cloud infrastructure. Announcing the four new projects, Kara Hurst, vice president of sustainability at Amazon, said: “In addition to the environmental benefits inherently associated with running applications in the cloud, investing in renewable energy is a critical step toward addressing our carbon footprint globally.”

Amazon recently disclosed that its total carbon emissions across data centers and supply-chain facilities totaled 44.4 million metric tons in 2018. Since then, the company has pledged to meet the Paris Agreement 10 years early, by meeting the target of net zero carbon across the business by 2040, instead of the 2050 deadline set by governments.

Last month, the company’s CEO Jeff Bezos announced a $10 billion fund to help fight global warming. The news, however, coincided with the rise of an activist group created within the ranks of Amazon’s 750,000-strong workforce, dubbed the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, who slammed their employer for the connections they said that the business still maintains to the oil and gas industries.

The group Tweeted: “We applaud Jeff Bezos’ philanthropy, but one hand cannot give what the other is taking away. The people of Earth need to know: When is Amazon going to stop helping oil & gas companies ravage Earth with still more oil and gas wells?”

As part of the employee’s action campaign, almost 400 named workers also came forward to publicly comment on Amazon’s position on climate. They won support from Democratic presidential primary candidate Bernie Sanders, who said in a Tweet: “I stand with these Amazon employees who are courageously speaking out.”

Amazon’s commitment to net zero carbon by 2040 was also somewhat overshadowed by Microsoft’s recent announcement to be carbon negative one decade earlier, by 2030. Microsoft also pledged to have removed from the environment all the carbon that has been emitted by its business since 1975, by 2050.

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