Amazon gives green light to new solar projects in the US and Spain

Key Points
  • The three facilities are expected to generate nearly 700,000 megawatt hours of energy per year.
  • Amazon is not alone in its desire be more sustainable, with many major firms attempting to use more renewable energy to power their operations. 
Johannes Eisele | AFP | Getty Images

Amazon revealed details of new renewable energy projects in the U.S. and Spain Tuesday, with the tech giant seeking to ramp up the greening of its operations.

Together, the three solar projects are expected to generate nearly 700,000 megawatt hours of energy per year, which is enough to power over 67,000 homes, according to the firm.

The project in Spain will be southeast of the city of Seville and have a capacity of 149 megawatts (MW). The solar facilities in the U.S. will be in Lee County, Illinois and Northern Virginia, and will amount to a combined 180 MW.

Amazon said that, once finished, the solar facilities would supply energy to its fulfilment network in Europe as well as Amazon Web Services data centers.

While Amazon is aiming to green its operations through the development of renewable energy facilities, it is not immune from criticism.

In June, it was one of more than 700 firms targeted by 88 investors "for not reporting environmental information." The aim of the investors was to push businesses such as Amazon to disclose information via the CDP, a not-for-profit platform which enables companies to divulge environmental performance data.

A few months earlier, in April, thousands of Amazon employees signed an open letter to CEO Jeff Bezos and the firm's board of directors, imploring them to take action on climate change.

In September, Amazon co-founded an initiative called The Climate Pledge, which asks signatories to become "net zero carbon across their businesses" by the year 2040.

It has also launched what it calls a "transparency website" which it uses to report on what it describes as its "sustainability commitments, initiatives, and performance." The site also has information on the firm's carbon footprint, which it reports as being 44.40 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent for the 2018 fiscal year.

Amazon is not alone in its desire be more sustainable. Last week, for example, the Inter Ikea Group said it would invest 200 million euros ($221.7 million) to accelerate its transition into what it describes as a "climate positive business."

The group, which among other things develops and supplies Ikea's product range, said the money would focus on two areas: investing in schemes "aimed at removing and storing carbon through reforestation and responsible forest management" and using renewable energy in its supply chain.

Like many major companies around the world, there is work to be done if Ikea is to achieve its goals.

In its sustainability report for the 2018 fiscal year, Ikea said its climate footprint was estimated to be 26.9 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. This is an increase of 2.8% compared to the 2016 fiscal year, a rise Ikea put down to "the growth of the Ikea business."

In the report, released in March, Ikea also noted that "decoupling" its growth from greenhouse gas emissions would "take time," adding that it expected emissions to "increase for a few years before decreasing."

It listed three key challenges for its aim to be climate positive: cutting its raw material footprint; lowering emissions from customers traveling to its stores; and moving to renewable heating and fuels, a sector it described as "experiencing slow progress globally."