Big breaking news today: Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced today that it has teamed with Community Energy, Inc., to build and operate an 80 megawatt solar farm in Accomack County. The new farm, which will begin generating 170,000 megawatt hours annually as soon as October 2016, will be the largest solar facility in Virginia and one of the biggest east of the Mississippi.
AWS’s long-term goal is to generate 100% of its power from renewable energy. The Accomac facility will serve “both existing and planned AWS datacenters in the central and eastern U.S,” the company stated in a press release.
This is a potential game changer in the Virginia energy market. In theory, electricity output on this scale should make solar-generated power more economical than anything else we’ve seen in Virginia. This project could legitimize solar power in a way that no previous project has.
But there are lots of questions not answered in the press release. To what extent is the project dependent upon subsidies and tax breaks (and how do they compare to incentives available for other fuels)? Will the solar plant require back-up generating capacity — and will AWS be covering any of that expense? Will AWS electricity be utilizing the existing electric power grid to wheel its electricity to its customers, and will it be paying to help maintain that? I’ll try to get answers.
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