With its purchase of 315 megawatts for an upcoming project, Microsoft will help Virginia become a leader in the solar power industry.

Just three years ago, Virginia solar power represented less than one percent of the state’s energy generation. Today, it’s making progress in leaps and bounds. Virginia recently announced plans to build the biggest solar project in the state’s history.

Regarding the announcement, Governor Ralph Northam said it “demonstrates that Virginia is quickly becoming a global leader in the clean energy industry.”

Microsoft will be alongside Virginia in this historical move as it plans to make the largest corporate purchase of solar energy ever in the U.S. from this future project.

Massive Expansion in Solar Energy

Virginia solar power is making its ascent with plans to install 750,000 panels, all of which will produce a combined peak capacity of 500 megawatts across 3,500 acres. The project will consist of two sites, named Pleinmont I and II. Microsoft plans to purchase close to two thirds of the energy generated at these solar fields.

The plans for the Pleinmont I and II come at a time when solar energy has rapidly increased in demand across Virginia. This can be seen reflected in the fact that in 2017, Virginia jumped from 17th to 10th place in new solar capacity installed.

According to the association behind that report, the total generating capacity for Virginia solar power will continue to grow at a fast pace; more specifically, it will reach up to around 2,000 megawatts in the next five years. For added perspective, that’s enough to power nearly 200,000 homes across the state.

One of the reasons behind Virginia’s move to embrace solar power is due to the fact that the state’s biggest customers, like Microsoft, could easily go elsewhere for the renewable energy they have committed to its company creed.

Joining the Big Leagues

Pleinmont I and II will also be joining the ranks of the other large solar fields in the U.S. and even topping them in terms of peak capacity. As of now, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in San Bernardino County, California generates the highest peak capacity of 392 megawatts. In 2014, this 4,000-acre solar field even held the record for the world’s largest solar thermal power station.

The planned Virginia solar power fields will also join the ranks of the Solar Energy Generating Systems in the Mojave Desert of California. The 1,600 acre site generates 354 megawatts at its peak, the equivalent of 232,500 homes. The facilities use over 936,300 mirrors that when lined up could extend well over 229 miles.  

Microsoft Invests Heavily Into Virginia Solar Power

Microsoft has some big goals to meet, and their deal with the upcoming Virginia solar power plant is helping them get there. Through the company’s purchase of 315 megawatts from Pleinmont I and II, Microsoft will be reaching 1.2 gigawatts in its global energy portfolio.

All of this is meant to contribute to the organization’s ultimate goal of being 60 percent dependent on wind, solar, and hydropower energy by 2020.

But for Microsoft, this goes beyond improving their own carbon footprint. Its corporate responsibility goals have expanded to work on how it can make an impact on others as well.

“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,” said Brad Smith, President of Microsoft.

Renewable Energy: A Business Move

Microsoft is far from the only corporate giant making moves toward sustainability. In the past year, Google, Facebook, and Walmart have all announced their continued efforts to invest not only in their sustainability, but in one of the surrounding communities.

“Walmart envisions a world where people do not have to choose between electricity they can afford and renewable electricity that is good for communities and the planet,” shared Walmart.

This reflects the patterns many corporations have taken in ensure that a sustainable future is secured. Amazon is a great example of this as they have been continually working on ways to sustainably power their massive data centers. They’ve been in collaboration with Virginia to achieve this since 2016 when they announced that five new solar farms would open across the state. These facilities were expected to generate 580,000 megawatt hours of annual energy.

Pleinmont I and II are yet to be built, but these locations promise to bring as much benefit to Virginia as other corporate social responsibility trends.

“When companies like Microsoft invest in Virginia solar, they opt for clean and reliable energy as well as new jobs in the energy economy we are working hard to build. I am proud that Microsoft is expanding its commitment to solar energy in Virginia, and I look forward to building upon this victory for clean energy and the jobs that come with it,” added Governor Northam.