Digital Realty Signs Clean Energy Deals for US Data Centers on Both Coasts

Agrees to buy the output of a 50MW solar project in Virginia, signs green tariff deal with Oregon utility

Yevgeniy Sverdlik

October 2, 2019

2 Min Read
Solar panels
Allison Joyce/Getty Images

Digital Realty Trust announced on Wednesday two renewable energy deals in connection with its US operations.

The two power purchase agreements will add 227,000 megawatt-hours of clean energy to the regional grids powering Digital’s data centers. One is a deal with the energy company Engie North America for electricity from a planned 50MW solar project expected to come online late next year.

Digital has agreed to buy 107,000 megawatt-hours of energy from the project per year for its data centers in Northern Virginia, the world’s largest data center market by capacity, where the company is the dominant player.

The second agreement is with Portland General Electric for 120,000 megawatt hours annually. Under the recently launched Green Future Impact program, PGE will source solar and wind generation in the state on behalf of Digital and other customers, according to Digital.

Generally, until a few years ago, data center providers did not go through the trouble of sourcing renewable energy for their facilities, saying there wasn’t much demand for it from customers, who were more concerned with infrastructure reliability and keeping their costs down than with sustainable operations.

The trend has since changed dramatically. The data center provider industry’s exploding growth in recent years has been tied directly to the explosion of cloud services, both for businesses and consumers. The biggest companies providing those services – the likes of Google, Facebook, and Microsoft – have all made public commitments to reaching carbon-neutral operations, albeit to varying degrees.

Related:Google Takes Big Step Toward Powering Itself With Renewables Around the Clock

Competition for the hyperscale platforms’ business, combined with the downward trend in renewable energy prices and public pressure from environmentalists – particularly Greenpeace – has driven meaningful investment in renewables by some of the largest data center providers, including Equinix, Switch, Iron Mountain, Digital Realty, QTS, and Rackspace.

Including the recent Engie deal in Northern Virginia, Digital has now invested in 338MW of new solar and wind generation capacity total. The company says it has procured enough renewable energy to balance out its data centers’ energy consumption in all of Europe; enough wind power for its retail colocation business in the US; and carbon-free renewable power for “several Northern California properties.”

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