The environmental activist group, Greenpeace, has welcomed Amazon Web Service’s announcement of a solar power deal in Virginia that will help power its data centers. However, Greenpeace Senior Energy Campaigner David Pomerantz said:
“Amazon’s solar deal in Virginia is an encouraging sign that the company is making progress on its pledge to power its data centers with 100% renewable energy, and is welcome news for Amazon’s customers that have urged the company to move faster in its adoption of renewable energy.
“But Amazon customers still need better transparency to properly assess the significance of this solar deal. Amazon has not disclosed how much energy its data centers consume in Virginia or anywhere else. While this new deal is significant, it appears to provide only a small fraction of the electricity Amazon is consuming in Virginia, where it is growing rapidly.”
Based on Greenpeace’s May, 2015 estimates of the electricity demand of Amazon Web Services (AWS) Virginia data centers, the new solar deal will likely increase the amount of renewable energy supplying AWS’ data centers in Virginia from its current level of 2%, which is what the regional utility, Dominion Resources, provides, to roughly 6%. Tripling is significant, but the low number shows how rapidly Amazon will have to scale its renewable energy procurement in Virginia to reach its ultimate 100% goal, especially given evidence of its rapid ongoing growth there. 
AWS customers including Tumblr, The Huffington Post, and Hootsuite recently wrote to AWS, urging the company to publish how much electricity it uses in each of its regions, and what the resource mix is in each. Increased transparency would allow AWS customers and the public to have confidence in its progress toward 100% renewable energy, and evaluate deals like today’s in the context of its overall footprint.
Greenpeace’s most recent report, “Clicking Clean: A Guide to Building the Green Internet,” found that Amazon has failed to provide transparency about how it will keep its commitment to use 100% renewable energy, particularly as it expands its data center operations in coal-heavy regions like Ohio and Virginia. Greenpeace will update its assessment of Amazon’s overall footprint later this summer.
1. Greenpeace estimated AWS’ footprint in Virginia to demand 500 MW of electricity in its Clicking Clean report. The new AWS solar farm will provide 170,000 MWh of annual power according to Amazon, or 20 MW of effective capacity, equal to 4% additional renewable power for its operations there.