It was just last week when Amazon announced that its three massive central Ohio data servers are in operation. Now it’s saying where it will get much of the power to run them.
Amazon said late Monday afternoon that it will build a 189-megawatt wind farm in Hardin County in northwestern Ohio that is expected to begin generating electricity in December 2017. Amazon already is building a wind farm in Paulding County.
Amazon is working with EverPower, a wind-energy developer, to build and operate the Hardin County wind farm, a project that the developer has been planning since 2013. EverPower’s project, called Scioto Ridge Wind Farm, was approved by Ohio regulators in 2014 despite opposition from some residents.
Hardin County officials on Tuesday pegged the investment in the wind farm at $300 million, making it probably the largest project in the county.
Big projects don’t “always have to happen in big cities,” said Jon Cross, president and CEO of the Hardin County Chamber & Business Alliance in Kenton, the county seat. “They can happen in small communities like ours, courthouse communities that are an important engine of Ohio’s economy.”
The project will lead to about a dozen long-term jobs, plus construction jobs. Also, it will lead to a significant boost in tax receipts for communities and schools, Cross said.
This is Amazon’s fourth wind farm in the United States and second in Ohio to support its web-services business.
Both Ohio wind farms were planned by developers before Amazon’s involvement; they might have languished if not for the the internet company’s commitment to buy electricity from them.
Amazon said the wind farms will deliver energy into the electricity grid that will power Amazon Web Services’ data centers in central Ohio and northern Virginia. The company’s long-term goal is to power its “cloud” services solely with renewable energy.
“There are lots of things that go into making this a reality, including governments implementing policies that stimulate cost-effective renewable-energy production, businesses that buy that energy, economical renewable projects from our development partners and utilities, as well as technological and operational innovation that drives greater efficiencies in our global infrastructure,” said Peter DeSantis, vice president of infrastructure of Amazon Web Services, in a statement.
When the newest wind farm is complete, Amazon Web Services’ five renewable-energy projects are expected to generate 2.2 million megawatt-hours of energy annually, which would be enough to power 200,000 homes, according to Amazon.
Cross and Hardin County commissioners were surprised when they learned of Amazon’s announcement Tuesday. Although they knew that EverPower was working to find a buyer for the electricity, they were not involved in the talks with Amazon.
“We’re waking up absolutely excited Amazon will be indirectly a part of Hardin County,” Cross said.
The investment marks yet another Amazon project for Ohio. In addition to the recently opened data centers, Amazon has opened two distribution operations in central Ohio and struck a deal with Air Transport Services Group, which operates in Wilmington, to run an air-transport network.
EverPower, based in Pittsburgh, submitted plans for Scioto Ridge in 2013 and got approval the following year from the Ohio Power Siting Board. The project has been revised twice, and the revisions also have been approved.
Although the plan allows for turbines in both Hardin and Logan counties, Amazon’s plan includes only parts of Hardin County at this time, according to EverPower. However, the Logan County parts of the original plan still could be built at some point.
Many local concerns about the project came from residents near Indian Lake in Logan County. Activists there provided some of the push that led to 2014 legislation that increased the distance required between a wind turbine and nearby structures. The Amazon project does not need to follow the new distance rule because it already had a permit.
“That’s to Amazon’s credit that they’re not going (to Logan County) where they’re not wanted,” said Julie Johnson, a resident of nearby Champaign County who has helped to organize opposition to wind farms.
Meanwhile, Jason Dagger, Ohio project manager for EverPower, says the Amazon announcement shows the good that renewable energy can do.
“That’s a strong selling point for Ohio when you can create jobs, better the environment and generate tax dollars,” he said.
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