Compared to its peers like Google and Apple, Amazon has been under pressure from environmental groups to take sustainability more seriously. Greenpeace called the company out in May for not showing how it will actually achieve its long-term 100% renewable energy goal.
Amazon is now taking a big step in that direction, announcing on June 10 that it would partner with the firm Community Energy to build a new 80 megawatt solar farm in Virginia–the largest in solar facility in the state to date. The solar farm will power Amazon Web Services datacenters in the area. Because Virginia electric utilities depend heavily on coal, building its own facility helps lower Amazon’s carbon profile.
Greenpeace issued a statement that applauded the announcement but reiterated its call for to know how much total energy Amazon’s data centers consume in both Virginia and elsewhere. The environmental group’s own estimate shows that the solar farm would only supply enough energy to meet a single-digit percentage of Amazon’s total energy demand in Virginia. Amazon Web Services customers including Tumblr, The Huffington Post, and Hootsuite recently wrote to the company asking for it to be more transparent.
In April, Amazon did say that about 25% of its global infrastructure was now powered by renewable energy. By 2016, the goal is to increase that to 40%. It looks like Amazon is slowly transitioning to more renewables. But in Virginia, the company might have to build a lot more solar farms in order to get there.