Amazon is funding a 23.2MW wind farm in Cork, Ireland, and a 45MW solar farm in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, USA.

The two sites, with an expected annual generation of 68,000 megawatt hours (MWh) and 100,000 MWh respectively, will be used to serve Amazon Web Services data centers when the farms come online next year - via Power Purchase Agreements.

Renewable push

AWS logos
– Sebastian Moss

“Playing a significant role in helping to reduce the sources of human-induced climate change is an important commitment for Amazon,” Kara Hurst, director of sustainability at Amazon, said.

“Major investments in renewable energy are a critical step to address our carbon footprint globally. We will continue to invest in these projects, and look forward to additional investments this year and beyond.”

The two sites are the company’s 65th and 66th renewable energy projects, including 51 solar rooftops. Together, by 2020, the 66 sites have the capacity to generate 1,342MW of power, and deliver more than 3.9 million MWh of energy annually. Amazon made a commitment to power 100 percent of its global operations with renewable energy all the way back in 2014, but didn't set a timeframe.

Renewable pushback

Critics of the firm have previously pointed to the slow progress made by the world's largest cloud companies in powering its data centers using renewables, and some have alleged that the firm is abandoning its goal of running its data centers on 100 percent renewable energy – instead focusing its attention on winning business from the oil and gas industry.

Earlier this year, Greenpeace's Virginia-focused clicking clean report alleged that AWS is only meeting 12 percent of its renewable energy commitment in Virginia as its East Coast presence and energy demand grows.

“Despite Amazon’s public commitment to renewable energy, the world’s largest cloud computing company is hoping no one will notice that it’s still powering its corner of the Internet with dirty energy,” Greenpeace USA senior corporate campaigner Elizabeth Jardim said in February.

“Unless Amazon and other cloud giants in Virginia change course, our growing use of the Internet could lead to more pipelines, more pollution and more problems for our climate.”

Across the company as a whole, Amazon reached 50 percent renewable usage in 2018, and has not issued any updates since.

Gizmodo reports that at the same time as the slowdown in renewable investments, Amazon increasingly focused on bringing on board large oil and gas companies as AWS customers.

Earlier this year, the company's own employees protested Amazon's approach to the climate. 7,683 employees signed an open letter to CEO Jeff Bezos calling for the company to limit its carbon footprint, and develop a comprehensive climate change strategy, and brought a proposal to Amazon's annual shareholder meeting.

Shareholders voted the proposal down.