Tech giant Microsoft announces massive purchase of solar power in Virginia

  • Microsoft describes deal as "the single largest corporate purchase of solar energy ever in the United States."
  • Latest announcement follows two renewable energy deals in Singapore and India.
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Microsoft is to purchase 315 megawatts (MW) of energy from two new solar facilities in Virginia, it said Wednesday.

The tech giant will buy energy from the Pleinmont I and II sites in what it described as "the single largest corporate purchase of solar energy ever in the United States."

The Pleinmont developments are part of a bigger 500 MW project owned and operated by sPower, an AES and AIMCo business. When operational, Pleinmont I and II will have over 750,000 solar panels covering more than 2,000 acres.

"This project is our second solar agreement in Virginia and allows our Virginia data centers to be powered fully by solar energy," Brad Smith, Microsoft's president, said in a statement Wednesday.

Microsoft's total of directly purchased renewable energy now stands at around 1.2 gigawatts (GW). This, Smith said, was enough power to light 100 million LED bulbs.

More than 10 GW of new solar photovoltaic capacity were installed in the U.S. in 2017, according to a recent report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association. Photovoltaic refers to a way of directly converting light from the sun into electricity.

Virginia's governor, Ralph Northam, welcomed Wednesday's news. "When companies like Microsoft invest in Virginia solar, they opt for clean and reliable energy as well as new jobs in the energy economy we are working hard to build," he said.

Microsoft's latest announcement follows recent renewable energy deals in Asia. At the beginning of March, the company agreed to buy all the renewable energy output from a 60 MW solar project in Singapore, its first clean energy deal in Asia. A few days later, it announced it had entered into an agreement to purchase 3 MW of solar-powered electricity in India.

Correction: An earlier version had the wrong last name for Gov. Ralph Northam.