Microsoft seals “biggest ever” US corporate solar off-take deal

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Computing giant says it now contracts enough renewables to “send Marty McFly back in time in a DeLorean” after sealing 315MW Virginia solar farm PPA.

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Global computing giant Microsoft has revealed plans to buy the output from two new solar farms being built in the south-eastern state of Virginia, in a deal the company says is the single largest corporate purchase of solar ever in the US.

In an announcement on Wednesday, Microsoft said it would buy 315MW from Pleinmont I and II, two PV projects that will total 500WM, once finished, and which are owned and operated by Utah-based renewables outfit, sPower, an AES and AIMCo company.

The deal marks the first step toward Microsoft’s next goal of achieving 60 percent by early 2020, having already met its 50 per cent by 2018 target.

And the size of the deal, the company notes, puts its total of directly purchased renewable energy at roughly 1.2GW — “enough power to send Marty McFly back in time in a DeLorean.”

The US deal is the second solar off-take Microsoft has signed this month, after inking a 60MW agreement with Sunseap Group.

That contract will create the single-largest rooftop solar portfolio in Singapore, to date – spanning hundreds of rooftops, and serving data center energy consumption.

The company has also been a big and early supporter of wind projects – sealing deals for 285MW of renewable power from two off-site wind energy projects before 2015.

But Microsoft is just one of many global corporations to turn to renewables to help power their business and make it more sustainable.

In the very same state of Virginia, online retail giant Amazon has built its own 80MW solar farm (pictured above). And Google (Alphabet), Walmart, Ikea, and countless others are all working towards renewable energy targets of varying ambition.

And it’s happening in Australia, too. Just this week, Australia’s biggest brewer, CUB, announced a deal with German renewables developer BayWa, to buy to output of the new 112MW Karadoc solar farm in Victoria.

Telstra, one of the country’s big electricity users, has signed contracts with the huge Murra Warra wind farm in Victoria – along with ANZ and CC Amatil – and has also signed a contract for the soon to be completed Emerald solar farm in Queensland.

“Today, we’re signing the largest corporate solar agreement in the United States, a 315 megawatt project in Virginia that will move us ahead of schedule in creating a cleaner cloud,” said Microsoft president, Brad Smith, in comments on Wednesday.

“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.”

At 500 MW, the Pleinmont I and II will be the largest solar project in Virginia and the fifth largest in the country, generating around 715,000MWh a year.

sPower CEO Ryan Creamer said the deal with Microsoft had been a game-changer for the project, and for other potential off-takers.

“Their early commitment helped ensure that the project continued to move forward and come to fruition at a time of regulatory uncertainty,” Creamer said.

“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.”

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