Datacenters keep buying renewable energy. More than 40 GW in the USA

hacked Server room interior in datacente
Sheila Zabeu -

April 03, 2023

To meet growing demand and ensure commitment to sustainability, the datacenter industry continues to invest in renewable energy consumption. In particular, in the United States, wind and solar power contracted for these environments and their customers has jumped to 40 GW or two-thirds of the total corporate renewable energy market in the country, according to figures from S&P Market Intelligence.

Unsurprisingly, Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta and Microsoft, which rely heavily on data centres as part of their core business, alone account for more than 45 GW of the world’s renewable energy procurement, representing more than half of the global market.

To cite just one example, by 2022, with its online retail operations and cloud services, Amazon extended its lead in contracted renewable energy by surpassing 20 GW of wind and solar capacity. Google, Meta, and Microsoft ranked second, third, and fourth respectively.

The current estimated power demand from datacenters in the United States is just over 22 GW. Based on current development plans, that number will jump to 33 GW in just a few years, although I may be underestimating the future market based on the renewable capacity acquired by hyperscalers and datacenter companies.

Datacenter hubs in the USA

The US state of Virginia, specifically the northern part, continues to be the hub for datacenters, not only in the US, but globally. Combined with the huge operational datacenter fleet, future facilities are expected to increase datacenter power demand alone to nearly 9 GW in Virginia.

Virginia currently ranks fifth in corporate renewable capacity with 3.3 GW. State law requires energy suppliers to work with 100% renewable energy by 2050.

According to data from 451 Research, nearly 50 million square feet of raw datacenter space is in operation in Virginia alone. The top five hyperscalers own or lease 116 datacenters in the state. Dominion Energy and its subsidiary Virginia Electric & Power provide power for most of these datacenters.

California is in a distant second place, with just 31 million square feet of data centre space. The state also ranks second when it comes to operational power, at 2.3 GW, although it currently has a relatively moderate contracted corporate renewable energy capacity of 1.3 GW. Amazon holds the largest renewable energy contract with the AES-owned Baldy Mesa Solar project, involving 150 MW of solar power and 75 MW of storage. Apple, Digital Realty, Google and Microsoft also have contracts of the same type with projects in California. The state has the second largest installed base of renewable energy capacity in the United States, with 18.4 GW of wind and solar power and a goal of having 100% carbon-free energy by 2045.

Texas has 1.8 GW of operational capacity and another 500 MW planned. Among the major hyperscalers, Microsoft leads in Texas with 11 datacenters in operation or under development. Texas dominates the corporate renewable energy market, with more than 20 GW contracted to non-utility organizations.

The southeastern region of the United States is emerging as a major data centre market. Georgia ranks second behind Virginia in planned data centres by power consumption, with 679 MW. Tennessee and Alabama add another 369 MW. Meta and Google are leading datacenter development in the region, with 11 and five datacenters, respectively, either operating or in planning. The states of Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama have nearly 2.5 GW of combined contracted corporate renewable energy capacity.

Iowa ranks third in planned power capacity for data centres, with 666 MW. Meta, Google, and Microsoft have an increasingly strong presence in the state, with a total of 19 facilities either operating or under development. There is 1.7 GW of contracted wind capacity in Iowa. In addition, the state ranks first in share of renewable energy generation, with wind and solar sources accounting for 54% of the state’s power generation, helping to attract hyper-scale developers committed to clean energy.

The Pacific Northwest region is also joining the world of datacenters in the United States, particularly in suburban Seattle and Portland, as well as rural Washington and Oregon. Amazon leads the presence in the region with 17 facilities, while Microsoft comes close behind with 16. Meta and Google also have a significant presence, with 18 facilities combined. Apple is the largest purchaser of renewable energy in the region. Future datacenters will add up to around 900 MW of combined power.

Datacenters that are already green

Energy Digital magazine, which specializes in the energy, essential services, mining and oil sectors, recently listed 10 data centres that have already made considerable strides in the field of sustainability. Here they are, counting down:

10. Switch – Received the highest rating in Greenpeace’s Click Clean report and also on S&P‘s list for environmental initiatives and social and governance standards. It has been operating with renewable energy since 2016.

9. AirTrunk – Operating in the Asia-Pacific region, it stands out for its water conservation efforts.

8. EdgeConneX – Aims to be a carbon, waste production and water consumption neutral data centre by 2030, operating on 100% renewable energy.

7. Ark Data Centres – Uses an environmental management system in its operations and has ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

6. Scala Data Centers  – With operations in Latin America, it is the first data center in the region to use 100% renewable energy, with PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) of 1.5. In May 2021, the company received CarbonNeutral certification.

5. Iron Mountain – Powered 100% by renewable energy, the company also wants to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.

4. Equinix – Headquartered in California with global operations, it aims to be carbon neutral by 2030. It has a new ESG plan and has already invested more than $129 million in energy improvements, retrofits and other upgrades.

3. Schneider Electric – Named as the world’s most sustainable company in 2021 and considered the leading provider of PPA (Power Purchase Agreements) solutions by Guidehouse Insights in 2022, the company is not only green itself, but also helps customers in their sustainability efforts. An example of this is its work with Italy, where 40% of energy is renewable with the help of Schneider’s EcoStruxure Smart Grid.

2.  Digital Realty – Winner of the EPA Energy Star Partner 2021 Sustained Excellence Award for its energy efficiency initiative, is first datacenter in the world to achieve 1 GW of sustainable capacity. It uses 64% renewable energy, a figure that has increased 14% in one year. In 2021 alone, it added 118 MW of solar and wind power to its energy grid. In addition, it has completed the issuance of two green bonds, with cumulative valuation of the total bonds issued since 2015 of US$6 billion.

1. Google Cloud – It was the first major organization to become carbon neutral in 2007. A decade later, it became the first major company to use 100% renewable energy. Based in California, it plans to have a carbon-free operation across its global data network by the end of the decade.