Amazon’s Oregon Data Centers Set To Purchase Clean Power
Amazon’s data centers in eastern Oregon will start buying clean electricity in their first step towards achieving their renewable energy goals, according to a statement released by the company on Friday. As part of the project, $1,2 million will be donated to a nonprofit organization that installs solar panels on the roofs of NPOs.
Committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, Amazon also indicated that renewable power that it purchases from elsewhere in the western US will also support its goal and help to offset its climate impact in Oregon. Shannon Kellogg, Amazon’s vice president for public order, confirmed that the tech giant is also working on expanding its transmission capacity that will see more clean energy supplied directly to its Oregon data centers.
Effect of Amazon’s Data Centers In Oregon
Based in Seattle, Amazon’s first Oregon data center came online a dozen years ago. It has spent around $23 billion building and operating data centers in Umatilla and Morrow since then, with the numerous data centers built across Oregon fueled by hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks. But the investment has threatened the state’s climate goals. Over the same period, regional carbon emissions rose sharply.
The regional power utility, Umatilla Electric Cooperative, currently relies primarily on fossil fuel-based electricity to meet the energy needs of Amazon. Data centers generally need massive amounts of power to run and cool their computers.
Tech companies- including Amazon, have accepted the science behind climate change and have indicated that they are keen to address its effects. Last year, Amazon announced that it would work with Umatilla Electric to source more renewable energy for its data centers, but declined to indicate just how much it intended to secure.
Amazon said in its statement on Friday that it will be buying over 200,000 megawatt-hours of electricity annually from the wind farm in neighboring Gilliam County operated by Avangrid, a renewable energy company. Enough to provide power to about 18,000 homes per year, the intended purchase is a large one but is just a tiny fraction of the electricity Amazon’s data centers use.
Data shows that in the decade after Amazon started operating in the region, Umatilla Electric’s electricity sales in Oregon went up by 5 million megawatt-hours. The wind power purchase could then account for just 4% of the electricity consumption in the data centers.
Details of the number of people working in its data centers in Umatilla and Morrow Counties has not been divulged by Amazon but statistics show that employment in the region grew by around 14% in the decade since Amazon started operating there. The increase translates to about 4,500 net jobs, but it is unclear how many of these jobs are connected to Amazon.
Saving Amazon over $400 million in Eastern Oregon since 2017- including $96 million in 2023 alone, the local property tax breaks for their Oregon data centers saw Amazon receive a tax break package worth around $1 billion last year for building 5 new data centers in Morrow County.
Amazon indicated that it would deliver more clean electricity to the community, but their almost $1.2 million contribution to the nonprofit GRID Alternatives that was announced on Friday won’t supply anything close to the amount of clean energy generated by the industrial wind farm. Kellogg said that they believe that there is a need and in supporting the GRID Alternatives project Amazon will be helping to advance a priority of the local community, and expect this to be the first of a series of future projects.
Kellogg confirmed that Amazon sees this as a very significant investment as well as a clear indication of their commitment to Oregon and exploring additional opportunities to add additional clean power to Oregon’s electricity grid.