In an unmistakable sign of the times, Salesforce announced today that it bought 40 megawatts of a new West Virginia wind farm’s output. Somehow I missed their pledge to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or to eventually power 100 percent of global operations with renewable energy. But leave it to them to find new ways to get into the news and to be hyper relevant in the process.
This provides an opportunity to talk about one of my favorite subjects, energy and the environment. It’s worth noting that the farm is still under construction but that it should be operational in about a year. Moreover the agreement calls for Salesforce to purchase 125,000 megawatt hours of electricity per year, more than the company will use in 2015.
It’s also worth saying that we don’t have a true national grid for electric power but that most of the power generated will be fed into the grid supporting the majority of Salesforce’s datacenter load. In such a situation it’s possible that some electricity will be sent elsewhere and that Salesforce would receive an equal amount of power from elsewhere. No big deal but if you’re thinking long term, a national grid really needs to be on the agenda.
Also worth noting is that Sonoma Valley is home to a public company (Calpine) that generates power from geothermal vents in the earth’s surface. Most of that power goes to San Francisco to the tune of supporting well over half of the city’s needs. So it turns out San Francisco is a rather green place to begin with.
I think the real news and benefit of today’s announcement is that by signing a 12-year contract Salesforce is providing demand that makes it easier for investors to put up the considerable funds needed to build out such a project. The press release from Salesforce says as much. According to Hervé Touati, a managing director at nonprofit Rocky Mountain Institute and head of the Business Renewables Center (BRC), “2015 has proven a record-setting year, with more than 3 gigawatts of wind and solar transactions signed by corporate buyers, compared to 1.2 gigawatts in 2014.”
Nonetheless only 20 corporations have gotten busy in this space according to the release so there’s ample opportunity for others to pioneer in this important effort too. That’s how a cleaner environment and global warming abatement are going to happen and I hope 2016 sees a lot of announcements like this.