AWS in Virginia: The economic impact of solar
This week at Amazon Web Services (AWS) Summit Washington, DC, we announced the findings of a 10-year economic study about AWS’s presence in Virginia. The report shows the impact that can happen when government and industry work together to create growth opportunities for communities. One component of this that is worth re-highlighting is the positive impact that Amazon solar investments are having and will have on the local economy in Virginia.
Renewable energy has long been a priority at Amazon and AWS. In 2020, we became the world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy, reaching 65% renewable energy across our business. This summer, we announced new renewable energy projects in the US, Canada, Finland, and Spain, advancing our commitment to decarbonize business operations and reach net-zero carbon by 2040, 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement. Currently, Amazon has a total of 232 wind and solar projects around the world with 10 gigawatts of electricity production capacity—enough to power 2.5 million US homes.
The impact that this has on the local economies we operate shouldn’t be overlooked. In Virginia, between 2019-2023, AWS is enabling 15 new utility-scale offsite solar farm across the southern part of the state, with a total capacity of 1,430MW. That represents a total investment of $2.1 billion. We estimate that the construction of the 15 solar projects will support 6,050 full time jobs in the state economy based on the input-output methodology and the US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) data for Virginia. Once all 15 projects are online, participating counties are projected to receive up to $2 million in tax contributions annually during the project lifetime. Additionally, lease payments to landowners are estimated at approximately $4 million per year.
Virginia has always understood the importance and benefits of solar. In 2015, AWS constructed what was then the largest solar facility in the mid-Atlantic through the efforts of government and industry. This investment is also a significant lift to the overall Virginia solar industry: a 140% increase to the total number Virginia solar jobs in 2020, and a 56% increase in state-wide solar generation capacity, according to the National Solar Job Census. This is an important industry and our continued work with organizations like the American Council of Renewable Energy (ACORE) is aimed to make sure we’re supporting the growth of the industry in the right ways.
A recent study by 451 Research found AWS Cloud data centers were 3.6 times more energy efficient than typical enterprise data centers. The researchers credited AWS’s more efficient servers and increased server utilization for cutting carbon output by 88% versus the legacy enterprise data centers they replaced.
Investments in Virginia solar bring us closer to accomplishing our goal of powering operations with 100% renewable energy by 2025. The projects will provide enough renewable electricity to power 225,000 households—equivalent to all of Prince William County—and avoid over 1.3 million tons of CO2 emissions each year.
When we choose our next AWS Region, the availability of renewable energy is a key factor in determining our location, as are climate patterns which inform how we can select the most energy and water efficient cooling methods for our data centers.
AWS is committed to running our business in an environmentally friendly way, and our scale allows us to achieve higher resource utilization and energy efficiency than the typical on-premises data center. It is fantastic to see government collaborators can also harness our efforts for the economic enrichment of their citizens.
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