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Amazon's Impressive Solar Plan for 2017

Ecommerce giant Amazon recently announced its impressive plans to make a massive shift to solar. After receiving less than praiseworthy reviews on their commitment to renewable energy from Greenpeace, Amazon decided that it will not continue to lag behind corporations like Walmart, Target, and Apple in reducing is carbon footprint.

Although the company has made significant strides by installing solar farms, PV arrays on its warehouses, its efforts looked halfhearted at best when comparing them to a number of other forward-thinking corporations. According to Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide, “it’s fair to say we’re taking a very aggressive approach to the amount of square footage in the U.S.” By square footage, he means the sizeable amount of square footage available on their warehouse rooftops.

By the end of 2017, Amazon plans to have 15 of its largest shipping and sorting centers to be 80 percent powered by solar energy. The sites total an impressive 41 MW of potential solar power, enough to power around 7,000 homes. The reduction in energy costs alone should offset the entire cost of the system components and installation within a year of being operational. The scope of the project could raise Amazon to the top 10 corporate users of solar power with an expected position between 7-8.

Always wanting to raise the bar, Amazon also plans to have at least 50 of its warehouses set up for solar by 2020. The project will start first in Patterson, Calif., where the company has a 1.1 million square foot warehouse expected to hold 75 percent of its space with solar in the coming months. The power generated by this system will provide power to the hundreds of sorting robotics that is housed in the facility. The known states that will be following include Maryland, Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey — each facility offering an average of the same space and energy needs of the California warehouse.

The robotics are not the only member of the Amazon team that will benefit from the solar panel systems. The retailer has also announced that it plans to expand its CareerChoice program to pay for educating warehouse employees to get certified as photovoltaic installers.

Amazon’s current CareerChoice program pays for 95 percent of employee tuition and associated fees on a yearly basis upfront for employees seeking a higher education or trade school. The program promises to introduce many new workers into the solar sector, and will certainly benefit not only Amazon, but the employees themselves.

Amazon’s promise seems to be rapidly getting underway, with well laid out plans beginning to take effect on their jump to become more immersed in the solar market. Although it has not been made clear yet, the projects may further offer new jobs to many of those already in the solar sector from planning, to turning on the system.

As we move forward into the future, we hope that Amazon’s example will expand to other corporations with the space and funds available to embark on these utility installations. Amazon further plans to become 100 percent energy independent, perhaps on the use of backup generators, or a battery backup system.

With regulations increasing from utility companies on power being fed back into the grid, it is a forward-thinking move by the company, and will ensure that the projects do not get hindered by the regulations levied by the numerous utility companies and states that they will be launching their solar projects in.