Amazon Expands Renewable Portfolio With Solar Farm at Reclaimed Coal Mine

Amazon has announced two utility-scale renewable energy projects in Maryland, with the company saying it now has invested in nearly 80 new wind and solar power installations this year.

Among the new projects is a solar farm being built at the site of coal mine that operated for more than a century. That 170-MW project, being developed by Competitive Power Ventures (CPV), will power an Amazon Web Services (AWS) data center. Amazon on Nov. 13 said the facility in Garrett County is the company’s first renewable energy project at a brownfield site; it also will be the state’s largest solar farm. CPV, headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland, said the solar farm is expected to enter commercial operation in 2025.

Amazon said it now is taking power from 479 wind and solar projects worldwide. The sites help power AWS data centers, fulfillment centers, and the company’s brick-and-mortar stores. Some of the projects also are providing electricity to the communities where they are sited.

World’s Top Buyer of Renewable Energy

BloombergNEF earlier this year said Amazon is the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable energy, with about 25 GW purchased globally. That’s more than twice the approximately 11 GW of Meta, the owner of Facebook.

The Amazon Solar Farm Maryland—CPV Backbone, named after nearby Backbone Mountain, is being built on the site of the recently closed Arch Coal mine, a site that was mined for 120 years. Mining operations left more than 45 acres contaminated with coal refuse, which was reclaimed by the state of Maryland.

“Amazon’s investments in solar and wind projects are helping power our operations, while also providing new sources of clean energy to the grid, spurring economic growth, and supporting jobs in the communities where our customers live and work,” said Adam Selipsky, CEO of AWS, in a company news update. “More than 90% of our operations were powered by renewables last year, but we’re not done. We’re focused on continuing to find innovative ways to bring new projects online, address grid constraints, and work with policymakers to mitigate the impacts of climate change, all of which is helping Amazon move closer to achieving 100% renewable energy by 2025.”

Nat Sahlstrom, head of energy, water and sustainability for AWS, said, “It’s exciting to see a site that was once used to produce coal, a high-carbon fossil fuel, be repurposed into a clean energy project that will help inject tax revenue and jobs into the local community.”

“CPV is pleased to partner with a leading company like Amazon to help it reach its renewable energy goals,” said Sean Finnerty, executive VP of renewable energy for CPV. “This project is a prime example of the opportunity we have to decarbonize our economy while repurposing brownfield sites and providing economic benefits and clean energy to our host communities.”

Agrivoltaic Project

The second project in Maryland will be built in Kent County. The Amazon Solar Farm Maryland—Morgnec, which could have as much as 45 MW of generation capacity, is one of Amazon’s first agrovoltaic solar projects. The installation will use bifacial solar panels to harvest the sun’s energy, while at the same time allowing for the land beneath the panels to be used for growing crops.

The Morgnec project will be built on 400 acres near the Maryland Eastern Shore area. The project also will utilize sheep to help control vegetation at the site.

Amazon also Monday said the company has added 13 new renewable energy projects in the Asia-Pacific region this year. The new installations include the company’s first such project in South Korea. Amazon also said it has ramped up its clean energy investments in India, with seven utility-scale renewable energy projects announced there since September of last year.

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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