Skip to main content

Clean Energy Deal Tracker

Q2 2021: Size matters to Amazon; creative tech giants; MGM's solar bet

Renewable energy graphic

Corporate renewable procurements in the second quarter of 2021 featured many familiar companies, as well as new names making their first solar or wind power transactions. 

The capacity of new deals inked by U.S. companies topped 3.3 gigawatts (GW), a comparable capacity with Q2 2020 (during which businesses announced agreements worth 2,433 megawatts) and Q2 2019 (at 2,801 MW). While not a large step up in quantity, the quarter was impressive in its diversity of contracts, technologies and fresh faces. 

gbg_cleanenergydealtracker_2021_q2

Size matters to Amazon

In June, Amazon announced 14 new wind and solar procurement projects simultaneously, spread across North America, Finland and Spain. Together, the projects top 1.5 GW of new capacity. (See the summary below.)

Site Name

City/County

State

Country

Project Type

Operational Date

System Size (MW)

Amazon Solar Farm Arkansas - Big Cypress

Crittenden

AR

US

Solar Farm

2023

120

Amazon Solar Farm Arkansas - Apple Blossom

Cross County

AR

US

Solar Farm

2023

135

Amazon Wind Farm Illinois - Crescent Ridge

Bureau County

IL

US

Wind Farm

2023

54

Amazon Solar Farm Illinois - Dekalb

DeKalb County

IL

US

Solar Farm

2023

90

Amazon Solar Farm Indiana - Randolph

Randolph County

IN

US

Solar Farm

2024

100

Amazon Solar Farm Kentucky - Garrard

Garrard County

KY

US

Solar Farm

2023

50

Amazon Solar Farm Mississippi – Potlatch

Scott County

MS

US

Solar Farm

2024

175

Amazon Solar Farm Ohio - Blue Harvest

Putnam County

OH

US

Solar Farm

2023

50

Amazon Solar Farm Ohio - Timber Road

Paulding County

OH

US

Solar Farm

2023

50

Amazon Solar Farm Pennsylvania - Potter

Potter County

PA

US

Solar Farm

2023

30

Amazon Solar Farm Pennsylvania - Ridgeway

McKean County

PA

US

Solar Farm

2023

90

Amazon Solar Farm Canada - Travers

 

Alberta

CA

Solar Farm

2022

375

Amazon Wind Farm Finland - Puskakorpi

   

Finland

Wind Farm

2023

53

Amazon Solar Farm Spain - Escuderos

   

Spain

Solar Farm

2023

152

 

The size of the collective procurements is impressive. It’s the third-largest procurement identified by GreenBiz’s Clean Energy Deal Tracker, behind Amazon’s 3.5 GW announcement in Q4 2020 and Google’s 1.6 GW announcement in Q3 2019. 

In addition to this suite of projects, the web giant separately inked a deal for 375 MW of solar in Ohio in April. The company says the transactions are in line with its goal to power operations with renewables by 2025 and become net zero by 2040. 

According to Amazon, it is the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy in the U.S, with investments in a total of 10 GW from 232 renewable energy projects globally, 85 of which are grid-scale solar or wind. This scale matters; developers in some countries say tech companies’ commitments to procure energy for long periods are more important than government subsidies in driving renewables.

The massive procurements make Amazon’s climate strategy clear: Bigger is better. Like recreational space travel, the move is flashy and conspicuous. The statements surrounding the procurements brag of their size first and foremost, making Amazon’s strategy distinct from other tech procurements disclosed during Q2.

Tech giants explore new models

While Amazon is going big, other tech leaders — Google, Facebook and Apple — are working on cracking other renewable challenges. 

During the quarter, Google announced a deal that will power a Virginia data center with 90 percent carbon-free power on an hourly basis. The deal, which partner AES calls a "first-of-its-kind," will include wind, solar, hydropower and battery storage capacity. Google has a goal to run all of its data centers on carbon-free energy around the clock by 2030, an initiative it dubs "24x7 carbon-free energy." 

The move to time and location-match renewable generation with consumption is picking up momentum. This month, Microsoft announced a similar initiative, which it calls 100/100/0, referring to a commitment to have 100 percent of its electricity 100 percent of the time matched by zero carbon energy. 

If done correctly, this power-matching strategy can help unlock 100 percent clean energy on the grid. A recent report from RMI on the topic, "Clean Power by the Hour," identifies corporations as leaders in driving a decarbonized power grid, noting corporate strategies should be tailored to region-specific grid dynamics to maximize emissions reductions in the near term.

Facebook inked a deal for 110 MW of solar through Tennessee Valley Authority’s Green Invest program. Facebook inked two similar deals with TVA last quarter, reflecting the social media company’s strategy to decarbonize the grid in areas in which it operates. 

Facebook also inked two deals in Asia, where the company is working to unlock the renewable market. One project in India is part of a larger portfolio of wind and solar projects, while Facebook is working with Mumbai-based CleanMax to supply renewable power to India’s electrical grid. A second, small project (just 5 MW) is using floating solar in Singapore — the first appearance of that technology in the Clean Energy Deal Tracker. 

Apple made a big play on energy storage with a commitment to build a grid-scale, 240 megawatt-hour battery energy system. The energy storage will be at California Flats, a 130 MW solar plant that provides all of Apple’s energy for its California operations. The company identified energy storage as a critical complement to solar and wind power, as both are intermittent. 

MGM bets on renewables 

MGM Renewable Electricity

MGM Resorts announced what it calls the "hospitality industry’s largest directly sourced renewable electricity project" in the world: a 100 MW solar array in the Nevada desert. 

The electricity will power 13 buildings on the Las Vegas Strip, including the Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand and The Mirage. MGM says the project is enough to power 90 percent of its daytime power needs and 35 percent of its annual electricity use.

In addition to the impressive size of this procurement for the sector, MGM’s investment is the latest evolution of an ongoing saga with the local utility, NV Energy. 

In 2016, MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts paid NV Energy $100 million to leave its services, in part because of the utility’s slow uptake of solar. The power fight was an iconic example of a corporation becoming frustrated with a utility slow to embrace the new energy landscape. The casino giants made the bet that they could slash bills and increase renewables through private providers on the open market. 

This procurement — a power purchase agreement through AEP Renewables — is a step towards MGM’s climate commitments and energy independence. Fingers crossed that the casino will share if its big bet pays off. 

Honorable mentions 

In addition to the usual suspects, other smaller companies and new players inked deals during the second quarter worth mentioning. 

  • Engie North America, a developer often working with corporations to procure clean energy, announced a wind deal in Texas to cover all of the energy needs for its Houston headquarters.
  • Dairy Farm HP Hood signed a 25 MW wind VPPA with Enel Green, and says it is one of the only dairy farms to enter such an agreement. 
  • Tops Friendly Markets, a supermarket chain based in New York, disclosed a deal to power 75 stores with community solar plus storage.
  • Hershey signed two renewable energy agreements in one week in honor of Earth Day, marking the confectioner’s debut on the Clean Energy Deal Tracker.

Note: this story was update on July 23, 2021, to include a procurement contract with Charles River. 

More on this topic