Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Microsoft invests in Virginia solar power

Steve Rogerson
March 28, 2018



Microsoft has bought 315MW of energy from the Pleinmont I and II solar projects in Virginia. This represents the single largest corporate purchase of solar energy ever in the USA.
 
This will enable Microsoft to make significant progress towards its goal of reaching 60 per cent of its energy use coming from renewable sources by early 2020. The Pleinmont projects are part of a larger 500MW solar development, owned and operated by sPower, an AES and AIMCo company.
 
"Today, we're signing the largest corporate solar agreement in the USA, a 315MW project in Virginia that will move us ahead of schedule in creating a cleaner cloud," said Brad Smith, president of Microsoft. "This project means more than just gigawatts, because our commitment is broader than transforming our own operations; it's also about helping others access more renewable energy."
 
The project is owned and will be operated by sPower, an independent renewable energy power producer based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Once operational, Pleinmont I and II will consist of more than 750,000 solar panels spread across more than 2000 acres, and produce approximately 715,000MWh a year.
 
"Microsoft's participation is a game-changer for this project and for other buyers," said Ryan Creamer, CEO of sPower. "Their early commitment helped ensure that the project continued to move forward and come to fruition at a time of regulatory uncertainty. Microsoft's large off-take also helped us offer very cost-competitive options for other buyers looking at our Virginia portfolios. This model broadens the ability for buyers of all sizes to participate in a large project like this, yet only take the megawatts they need for their business goals. We're proud to be working with Microsoft on this innovative approach."
 
At 500MW, the full project will be the largest solar project in Virginia and is equal to the entire amount of solar power currently produced in the commonwealth. It will also rank as the fifth largest solar project in the country. Microsoft has a sizeable presence in Virginia, both in terms of its physical presence in the form of data centres and office buildings and its work to bring connectivity to all citizens in the form of broadband technology. This is its second solar power purchase in Virginia.
 
"Today's announcement demonstrates that Virginia is quickly becoming a global leader in the clean energy industry," said governor Ralph Northam. "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. I am proud that Microsoft is expanding its commitment to solar energy in Virginia, and I look forward to building upon this victory for clean energy and the jobs that come with it."
 
This deal also represents two milestones for the company. With recent deals, Microsoft has met its target to power at least 50 per cent of its data centres with clean energy by 2018. This deal marks the first step towards its next goal of achieving 60 per cent by early 2020. The size of the deal also puts Microsoft's total of directly purchased renewable energy at roughly 1.2GW — enough power to send Marty McFly back in time in a DeLorean.