Amazon's Renewable Energy Future Takes a 1.1 Megawatt Step Forward

Jeff Bezos' company announces a solar array the size of 3.5 football fields.


Amazon’s vision to run completely on renewable energy took a 813,000 square-foot-sized step forward on Tuesday when the company announced it is building a solar array the size of 3.5 NFL fields in North Las Vegas.

The 1.1 megawatt installation — enough to power more than 1,000 homes — is the 17th solar project by Amazon since the shipping giant announced back in March 2017 an ambitious plan to build 50 solar arrays on its fulfillment and sorting centers by the year 2020. Other solar array projects at fulfillment centers have been announced for California, Maryland, and New Jersey.

“These projects are important steps toward our renewable energy goal and we hope they inspire our employees, customers, and communities as we work together to bring more renewable energy online in the coming months and years,” said Tom Chandlee, Senior Manager of Renewable Energy for the world’s second-most valuable company.

There are few better places in America for sunshine than the desert outside Las Vegas, which sees a mere five inches of rain a year. So far, Amazon has announced or started building projects that will create of 3.6 million megawatt hours of renewable energy. To have an Amazon video from last year tell it, energy generated on the roof will power robots and fulfillment technology under the roof.

The North Las Vegas fulfillment center is a massive building that has a 813,000 square-foot roof that has 3,145 individual solar modules on top. In a news release trumpeting the news, Amazon says “emissions avoided through this installation alone are equivalent to 3.3 million miles driven by an average gas-powered passenger car.” The North Las Vegas project is Amazon’s 28th wind or solar project in the United States.

As this satellite image shows, the Amazon Fulfillment Center in North Las Vegas is very big. The white roof will soon be covered with black solar panels.

That technology companies are making efforts to go carbon-neutral or use renewable energy is nothing new: In October of last year, Google announced it expected to be completely carbon neutral soon, and did so in April of this year. Apple also went carbon-neutral in April. But for Amazon — which is both a technology company and one that deals in many traditional methods of shipping — the challenge was greater. (It has received an “F” from the Carbon Disclosure Project in 2016 for not sharing how much carbon it emitted.)

Rooftop solar panels are just one way Amazon wants to use renewable energy. There are wind turbines on which Jeff Bezos breaks bottles of champagne, which are used to power its massive cloud computing service. Its largest wind farm, in west Texas, is comprised of 100 turbines. There are also Amazon wind farms in Indiana, North Carolina, and Ohio.

Amazon looked into other, more radical approaches to use less energy. One such one was underwater storage centers, which also have an economic benefit.

Related: “The Island of Ta’u Is Now Completely Solar Powered”

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