Will Amazon be on Santa’s ‘naughty’ list?

As the holiday season rapidly approaches, many Americans look to Amazon to deliver their Christmas gifts. But, will Amazon be on Santa’s naught list this year? The company is not being truthful with the American taxpayers. The industrial wind energy produced in North Carolina, by Iberdrola, will never fully power their data centers. In fact, historically, with capacity factors well below 40% and capacity value worth even less, it is a flat-out lie to claim it. What do they claim? Well, earlier in the year, Amazon reported a goal to power 100% of their operations with renewable energy and stated that the NC site should improve the goal to nearly 40%. Seriously?  Americans should demand proof and ask them to operate their data centers with wind power for a week. What would happen? All of us would have to shop in the wee hours of the night (when it is most windy) and expect the ordering process and delivery to take significantly longer…because their website would constantly go down, when the wind doesn’t blow….

When Amazon Web Services, a division of online retailer Amazon, announced in July its involvement in North Carolina’s first major wind farm, the company stated the power would be used for its data centers in Northern Virginia, but the centers will continue to purchase electricity entirely from Dominion Virginia Power, the public utility that currently supplies the Amazon data centers.

While AWS has agreed to buy all the power from the 208-megawatt wind farm being built and operated in Pasquotank and Perquimans counties by Iberdrola Renewables, the power will be connected to the grid locally and cannot be plugged into the data centers, which are 200 miles away….

The centers will continue to operate with the same mix of fuel types that power other Dominion customers; in 2013, that mix was 41 percent nuclear, 37 percent coal, and 20 percent natural gas. Renewables including solar, wind, hydro, and biomass constituted the remaining 2 percent.

“Amazon is one of many companies making misleading claims about how their facilities and operations are powered,” said Travis Fisher, an economist with the nonprofit Institute for Energy Research in Washington, D.C. “These companies are connected to the grid, which receives 86 percent of its power from coal, natural gas, and nuclear. Wind and solar power are expensive and unreliable energy sources and can’t be counted on to supply on-demand electricity. That’s why these sources require costly mandates and subsidies to prop them up. It’s fortunate for Amazon’s customers that they’re connected to reliable sources of electricity and aren’t subject to wind energy’s fickle output.”

Amazon’s contention that the wind farm will make its data center operations “green” also may run afoul of Federal Trade Commission guidelines governing the use of such claims in corporate promotions. “It is deceptive to misrepresent, directly or by implication, that a product or package is made with renewable energy or that a service uses renewable energy,” the FTC’s Green Guides state. (See related story here.)

Amazon not talking

CJ attempted to discuss the wind farm project with Amazon’s Global Communications operations manager Mary Camarata, who asked for written questions. Among the questions CJ submitted include: How much power is currently consumed at the Virginia data centers? How much would AWS be paying Iberdrola for power? And, what is the net cost to AWS for the project?

“We don’t disclose that level of detail. Sorry,” Camarata responded….