Every day the solar power movement gains strength and this can be seen in the latest move by Amazon. The online retail giant has just announced that they are going to be covering the roofs of their warehouses with solar powers. This is a major step because of the number of warehouses the company has and their size.
Amazon maintains some truly massive warehouses. It has to in order to keep up with the demand for its seemingly endless supply of products. It also needs to maintain storage facilities throughout the country to allow for the quickest delivery times possible, especially with the rising popularity of Amazon Prime and its free 2-day delivery feature. Throughout the country, Amazon has 50 different fulfillment centers.
This is a big step that Amazon is taking, but it won’t happen instantaneously. For one thing, the company will be beginning with a smaller section of its larger warehouse holdings. The company’s immediate focus is on installing solar panels at 15 different warehouses where the company feels they can get the biggest return on their investment.
Once this stage is complete Amazon estimates that it will be able to generate 41 megawatts of power from its rooftop solar farms alone. Using these initial fifteen installations as a foundation the company will go on to build up to complete coverage of all 50 warehouses. Amazon hopes to achieve this goal by 2020.
It can be difficult for the average person to understand just how much energy Amazon will be producing. To make sense of a number like 41 megawatts there needs to be some point of reference. To help clarify things it helps to note that the average US house requires 1.2 kilowatts every year. There are 1000 kilowatts in 1 megawatt, so the 41 megawatts Amazon hopes to generate will be enough to power 34,166 American homes! That’s some serious power.
This move is part of a concerted effort by Amazon to become more environmentally friendly. In the past, the retail powerhouse has been under fire from environmental organizations over what they saw as waste and inaction. Amazon has consistently announced intentions to become greener, but steps were largely sporadic until 2014 when the company laid out a coherent plan and took major steps towards implementing it.
Things truly kicked into high gear when they created a sustainability team lead by industry luminaries like Dara O’Rourke, Christine Bader, Christina Page, and Kara Hurst. This team. The sustainability team spearheaded a move to switch its data centers over to renewable energy. By 2015 the company announced that half of the energy it used came from renewable sources. As the company has developed its solar farms this number has increased. The new rooftop farms will add to the already existing solar infrastructure.
For years, companies have been dragging their feet when it comes to renewable energy, but things are starting to shift. In the past, it might have been the case that solar power meant sacrificing profits, but now that is no longer the case. The latest solar panels can generate income for the companies that can install them in large enough numbers.
It’s been estimated a well-run solar farm can earn between $1 and $4 per square foot. With proper planning and the right conditions, solar farms can break even in as little as a year. All of this isn’t to say that all of the kinks have been worked out of solar power technology. The fact remains that It is still best suited for areas that enjoy clear skies throughout the year, the cloudier the location is, the longer it will take for solar panels to pay off.
It’s also important that the solar panels are properly maintained, too many companies install solar panels without a long-term plan to take proper care of them. This leads to millions of wasted dollars a year, but it is not the fault of solar panels. Green energy requires long-term thinking, and fortunately, it seems like Amazon is a company that is capable of thinking beyond the immediate future.
Amazon’s change in directions is a victory for green technology, but it is only one part of a larger green revolution. Companies across the country, in every state and sector, must work together to bring about the greenest possible future. Fortunately, Amazon isn’t alone. In fact, some would argue that it’s actually behind the curve. The retailer Kohl’s boasts that it gets all of its energy from renewable sources.
Remember, solar is just a part of the total green puzzle. Other sources like wind and hydropower will be necessary to create a power grid that fulfills the nation’s energy grid without burning fossil fuels and releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Every person can do their part to help make the world a greener place, but real change requires teamwork. Amazon is stepping up and taking on new responsibilities in this struggle.
The plans are ambitious but time will show if the company follows through. Too many companies have announced lofty goals and fallen short. There’s reason to be optimistic about Amazon’s future as a green business, but it will still be necessary to watch what Amazon does and encourage them to do the right thing.