Microsoft announces firm’s single largest green energy PPA

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Microsoft HQ in Richmond, Washington. Image: Wikimedia Commons / Coolcaesar

Microsoft has unveiled its single largest renewable energy portfolio investment through a new deal with US energy firm Sol Systems.

The power purchase agreement (PPA) will see Sol Systems finance, develop and operate a portfolio of over 500MW of solar projects in the US and sell energy from those to Microsoft. Delivery of the portfolio will be phased in over “next several years”, the companies said.

Prior to this partnership, the total amount of renewable energy Microsoft has procured is approximately 1.9GW.

Microsoft chief environmental officer Lucas Joppa said the “first-of-its-kind” initiative with Sol Systems ties the purchasing of renewable energy to environmental justice and equity in under-resourced communities.

“What makes this partnership unique is that we will be working with local leaders, prioritising minority- and women-owned businesses and making community-lead grants and investments,” he added.

Working with local leaders in nearby communities and those disproportionately impacted by climate change, Sol Systems and Microsoft will invest at least US$50 million for community-led grants and investments that support educational programmes, job and career training, habitat restoration and programmes that support access to clean energy and energy efficiency.

Washington DC-headquartered Sol Systems is currently operating and building over 1GW of solar projects valued at more than US$1 billion for companies, municipalities, counties, utilities, universities and schools. 

“This marks a groundbreaking commitment by Microsoft, Sol Systems and our employees to invest in our communities and drive economic recovery,” said Sol Systems CEO and co-founder, Yuri Horwitz. “This is a unique approach to couple clean energy with community development and investment.”

The initiative will help Microsoft meet its goal of shifting to 100% renewable energy by 2025, and comes after the company unveiled plans for green energy purchase spree over the next few years to ensure it can become carbon negative by 2030.

By 2050, the company hopes to have removed from the atmosphere – via tree-planting, soil carbon sequestration and carbon capture – its entire carbon emissions since its 1975 foundation.

The deal between Sol and Microsoft follows a major leap last year in corporate power purchase agreements (PPAs) around the world, according to BloombergNEF (BNEF). In January, the consultancy published figures showing PPA moves for all forms of green energy by companies jumped 44% worldwide between 2018 (13.6GW) and 2019 (19.5GW), reaching a new record.

At 2.7GW signed throughout 2019, Google was the top corporate buyer of renewable electricity last year, according to BNEF. It was trailed by Facebook (1.1GW), Amazon (0.9GW) and Microsoft (0.8GW).

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