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Any analysis on the climate impact of a data center should consider resource utilization and energy efficiency, in addition to power mix. Carbon emissions are a factor of three things: the number of servers running, the total energy required to power each server, and the carbon intensity of energy sources used to power these servers. A recent blog post by Jeff Barr outlines why using fewer servers and powering them more efficiently is at least as important to reducing the carbon impact of a company’s data center as its power mix.

A typical large-scale cloud provider achieves approximately 65% server utilization rates versus 15% on-premises, which means when companies move to the cloud, they typically provision fewer than ¼ of the servers than they would on-premises.1 In addition, a typical on-premises data center is 29% less efficient in their use of power compared to a typical large-scale cloud provider that uses world-class facility designs, cooling systems, and workload-optimized equipment.2 Adding these together (fewer servers used plus more power efficient servers), customers only need 16% of the power as compared to on-premises infrastructure. This represents an 84% reduction in the amount of power required.

This massive improvement in energy efficiency drives a huge reduction in climate impact because less energy consumed means fewer carbon emissions. The climate impact improvements get even better when you factor in that the average corporate data center has a dirtier power mix than the typical large-scale cloud provider. Large-scale cloud providers (AWS included) use a power mix that is 28% less carbon intense than the global average.3

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Combining the fraction of energy required with a less carbon-intense power mix, customers can end up with a reduction in carbon emissions of 88% by moving to the cloud and AWS.

Read more here.

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We’ve made a lot of progress on this commitment. In January 2018, AWS achieved 50% renewable energy usage.

Click on each logo to learn more about our renewable energy projects.

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Amazon Solar Farm Virginia – Eastern Shore is an 80 megawatt solar farm in Accomack County, Virginia. The solar farm went into operation in October 2016 and is expected to generate approximately 170,000 megawatt hours of solar power annually – or enough to power approximately 15,000 US homes4 in a year. Click here to watch the video.

Amazon Solar Farm Virginia – Eastern Shore is an 80 megawatt solar farm in Accomack County, Virginia.

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Amazon Solar Farm Virginia – Buckingham is a 20 megawatt solar farm in Buckingham County, Virginia. The solar farm went into operation in November 2017 and is expected to generate over 48,000 megawatt hours of solar power annually – or enough to power over 4,000 US homes4 in a year.

Amazon Solar Farm Virginia – Buckingham is a 20 megawatt solar farm in Buckingham County, Virginia.

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Amazon Solar Farm Virginia – New Kent is a 20 megawatt solar farm in New Kent County, Virginia. The solar farm went into operation in November 2017 and is expected to generate over 48,000 megawatt hours of solar power annually – or enough to power over 4,000 US homes4 in a year.

Amazon Solar Farm Virginia – New Kent is a 20 megawatt solar farm in New Kent County, Virginia.

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Amazon Solar Farm Virginia – Sappony is a 20 megawatt solar farm in Sussex County, Virginia. The solar farm went into operation in November 2017 and is expected to generate over 48,000 megawatt hours of solar power annually – or enough to power over 4,000 US homes4 in a year.

Amazon Solar Farm Virginia – Sappony is a 20 megawatt solar farm in Sussex County, Virginia.

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Amazon Solar Farm Virginia – Scott is a 20 megawatt solar farm in Powhatan County, Virginia. The solar farm went into operation in December 2017 and is expected to generate over 48,000 megawatt hours of solar power annually – or enough to power over 4,000 US homes4 in a year.

Amazon Solar Farm Virginia – Scott is a 20 megawatt solar farm in Powhatan County, Virginia.

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Amazon Solar Farm Virginia – Southampton is a 100 megawatt solar farm in Southampton County, Virginia. The solar farm went into operation in November 2017 and is expected to generate approximately 210,000 megawatt hours of solar power annually – or enough to power over 19,000 US homes4 in a year.

Amazon Solar Farm Virginia – Southampton is a 100 megawatt solar farm in Southampton County, Virginia.

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Amazon Wind Farm Indiana – Fowler Ridge is a 150 megawatt wind farm in Benton County, Indiana. The wind farm went into operation in January 2016 and is expected to generate approximately 500,000 megawatt hours of wind power annually – or enough to power approximately 46,000 US homes in a year4. Click here to watch the video.

Amazon Wind Farm Indiana – Fowler Ridge is a 150 megawatt wind farm in Benton County, Indiana.

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Amazon Wind Farm North Carolina – Desert Wind is a 208 megawatt wind farm in Perquimans and Pasquotank counties, North Carolina. The wind farm went into operation in December 2016 and is expected to generate approximately 670,000 megawatt hours of wind energy annually - or enough to power more than 61,000 US homes4 in a year. Amazon Wind Farm US East is the first utility-scale wind farm in the state of North Carolina.

Amazon Wind Farm North Carolina – Desert Wind is a 208 megawatt wind farm in Perquimans and Pasquotank counties, North Carolina.

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Amazon Wind Farm Ohio – Timber Road is a 100 megawatt wind farm in Paulding County, Ohio. The wind farm went into operation in December 2016 and is expected to generate approximately 320,000 megawatt hours of wind energy annually - or enough to power more than 29,000 US homes in a year4. Click here to watch the video.

Amazon Wind Farm Ohio – Timber Road is a 100 megawatt wind farm in Paulding County, Ohio.

These renewable energy projects are expected to deliver over 2 million MWh of energy annually onto the electric grid powering AWS data centers located in the AWS US East (Ohio) and AWS US East (N. Virginia) Regions. The electricity produced from these projects is enough to power the equivalent of over 190,000 U.S. homes annually, which is approximately the size of the city of Atlanta, Georgia.5

 

In addition to AWS’ renewable energy progress, Amazon.com has also announced several renewable projects – please visit the Amazon Sustainability site for more details.

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In January 2018, AWS achieved 50% renewable energy usage.

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Five solar farms that AWS previously announced are now in operation in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Together with Amazon Solar Farm US East, the six solar farms bring 260 megawatts of renewable energy capacity onto the grid.

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AWS and Dominion Virginia Power join forces on a landmark renewable energy delivery deal. Read the Rocky Mountain Institute blog here for more details.

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  • Amazon Wind Farm US Central

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  • Amazon Wind Farm Fowler Ridge

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  • Amazon Solar Farms US East

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1 Source: NRDC 2014 “Data Center Efficiency Assessment” report

2 Source: Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of on-premises data centers from 2014 Uptime Institute study and PUE of cloud data centers from Google and Facebook public disclosures plus AWS internal data, all of which show PUEs under 1.2

3 Source: AWS average power mix carbon intensity of 393 grams/kWh for June 2015 and 2014 Global Energy Mix data from the International Energy Agency for on-premises assumptions

4 In 2016, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 10,766 kilowatt hours (kWh), an average of 897 kWh per month (U.S. Energy Information Administration)

5 Source: Source: Dividing the population of the city of Atlanta, Georgia (486,290 in 2017) by the average number of persons per household in 2017 (2.54 according to the US Census Bureau), you get 191,452 homes.

6 In some cases, our utility partners retire environmental attributes on our behalf. The amount purchased and retired is based on each region’s published grid mix.