Online retailer Amazon recently announced plans to build a new 100-megawatt wind farm to power its cloud data centers. Lucas Merian notes at Computerworld, “The project, called the Amazon Wind Farm US Central, is expected to generate about 320,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of wind power per year beginning in May 2017; that’s enough electricity to power more than 29,000 U.S. homes a year.” This latest project will be one of several wind farms that Amazon has in the works; the company is aiming to operate purely on alternative energy sources.
Although it’s a bit deceptive to say that a company that operates a distant grid-connected solar or wind power plant runs its business on that energy, the claim is nevertheless understandable given the power-distribution system. Amazon is one of several technology giants that are dabbling in energy generation—Apple is another. Typically, these companies employ either wind or solar, or some combination thereof, in their utility-style projects. Merian said, “Wind-powered energy, the second-largest category of renewable electricity generation, is expected to grow on average by 2.4% every year to become the largest power contributor by 2038. Other than hydroelectric, all other renewable forms of energy are expected to grow faster—but they are starting from a smaller base...according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).”
But alternative energy sources remain a tiny part of total energy production in the U.S., according to the EIA. Total “renewable energy production” bounced up and down throughout the 1980s, 1990s and even early 2000s. Only in the past 5–10 years has it seen a significant upward trend; even then, however, it accounted for just 11% of total production, just barely ahead of nuclear power. Moreover, questions remain regarding the environmental soundness of the mining, manufacturing and disposal processes associated with infrastructure for alternative energy—in particular for the case of wind, the mining of rare-earth elements for powerful magnets.
Read more about Amazon