Tech companies require ever increasing amounts of energy to keep up with demand. In 2012 Google used as much electricity as Turkey. By 2017 the IT industry is expected to account for 12% of global electricity demand. Tech companies love innovation. The chance to re-think infrastructure like energy generation for their own benefit will naturally occur. Amazon announced an initiative on March 2 to start to install large-scale solar systems at American distribution centers. This will start this year. By 2020 Amazon aim to have similar systems on 50 centers around the world.
“We are putting our scale and inventive culture to work on sustainability—this is good for the environment, our business and our customers. By diversifying our energy portfolio, we can keep business costs low and pass along further savings to customers. It’s a win-win.”– Dave Clark, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Opeations
Amazon Warehouse Workers Are (Increasingly) Robots
The initial projects in California, New Jersey, Maryland, Nevada and Delaware could provide 80% of each facilities needs. Solar panels on the Amazon plant in Patterson, California, will cover over 75% of the 1.1million square foot rooftop. The need to build in capacity at Amazon warehouses is a natural outcome of the companies drive towards automated workers in its distribution side of the business.
Amazon Web Services are currently receiving power from a network of wind and solar farms in Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia. A new wind farm is also underway in Texas. In total Amazon’s energy projects will generate a total of 3.6 MW, all from renewables.
While impressive on paper we need to contextualise Amazon’s efforts. Greenpeace USA‘s report Clicking Clean provides useful insight into the efforts of Apple, Google and Facebook to go green. Netflix, Amazon Web Services and Samsung received poor grades. Netflix is a huge part of traffic now. As a new company, compared to Facebook or Google, Netflix has a lot to work on in their supply chain. Amazon’s C grade really gives them a lot of room to grow, which this solar initiative suggests they will.
Amazon are retrofitting their existing infrastructure to be green. Tesla by contrast has designed its factories in the way all infrastructure needs to be in the future; self-sustaining and able to contribute to wider energy needs.