December 19, 2019 Read More →

Technology firms driving sharp rise in renewable energy demand in Virginia

S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):

Technology firms are buying more than half the solar-generated electricity produced in Virginia, and a state official expects the industry to drive increasing demand for clean energy resources.

Virginia has 512 MW of operating solar capacity, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data, with more than double that amount, 1,324 MW, including planned projects, under contract to parties such as corporate buyers, universities and utilities seeking to combat climate change. Microsoft Corp., Amazon Web Services Inc., and Facebook Inc. have collectively purchased 700 MW.

Stephen Moret, president and CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, which secured a deal for Inc.’s second national headquarters in Arlington County, Va., eyes exponential growth of renewable demand given capital investments from the tech sector.

Referring to past investments in data centers in Virginia by Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and Facebook, Moret said a convergence of state policy support and an increasing presence in the state from leading tech firms will drive growth in demand for renewables. “I think it is going to accelerate and be much, much bigger going forward,” he said.

“I think it is probably fair to say that the major data center players have represented the biggest single private-sector catalyst for accelerating demand for renewable energy,” Moret added. Outside data centers, Moret also expects job growth in the coming years from cloud computing, automation, software engineering and development, cybersecurity, machine learning, and technology equipment manufacturers.

Technology firms have sought wind and solar power to reduce the carbon footprint of their operations. On Dec. 3, for example, Amazon Web Services announced investments in two solar projects including an 80-MW project in Northern Virginia and 100-MW project in Lee County, Ill. AWS’ goal is to use 100% renewable energy by 2030, with an interim goal of 80% by 2024. It previously contracted for 305 MW in Virginia from a combination of the Whitehorn Solar Project planned by Engie SA in Pittsylvania County and six projects in various locations owned by Dominion Energy Inc.

[Stephanie Tsao]

More ($): Technology companies push for more renewables in Virginia

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