Amazon will buy Solar Energy from a Repurposed Coal Mine in Maryland

Originally published by CNBC.

Amazon will buy Solar Energy from a Repurposed Coal Mine in Maryland at Deep Creek Lake, MD

Former coal mine site in Maryland. Courtesy: Maryland Department of the Environment

Amazon will buy renewable energy from a solar project in Garrett County, Maryland, that is being built on a brownfield — the former site of a 120-year-old coal mine. The new project is expected to create 200 jobs and will include more than 300,000 solar panels, making it the largest solar farm in the state.

Amazon will use the new facility to power its Amazon Web Services (AWS) data centers as well as fulfillment centers and physical stores. It will also proved clean power to local communities. It is one of 78 new solar and wind projects Amazon has announced investments in so far this year.

The former coal site, which had to be cleaned of toxins, is particularly attractive because it already has access to an energy interconnection and substations. Creating this related infrastructure is often the biggest roadblock to new clean energy projects. The solar panels can service the surrounding community quite easily.

“They don’t get plugged into a data center or an Amazon fulfillment center or a home. They get plugged into a substation and into the grid, so we’re making the grid cleaner. Our investments are helping power our operations and making the entire grid greener,” said Nat Sahlstrom, head of energy, water, and sustainability for AWS.

The project will help the region avoid roughly 133,000 tons of CO2 – the equivalent of taking more than 26,000 cars off the road each year, according to the developer Competitive Power Ventures, which is investing $200 million into the project.

“We’re building this project and making use of land that would otherwise be unusable,” said Sean Finnerty, Executive Vice President of Renewable Energy for CPV.

Finnerty said the project will be eligible for solar and clean energy investment tax credits.

The EPA estimates there are more than 450,000 brownfields in the U.S. and says cleaning and reinvesting in these properties increases local tax bases, facilitates job growth, utilizes existing infrastructure, takes development pressures off of undeveloped, open land, and both improves and protects the environment.

CPV is purchasing the solar panels but leasing the land.

“We made a conscious decision to develop the backbone project on the former coal mine,” said Finnergy. “It brings a positive benefit to the community, but the permitting was very rigorous with the state of Maryland. There was a lot of effort that went into making sure the solar farm was designed correctly.”

The project is expected to be completed late next year.

Amazon’s Sahlstrom says the company is currently on track to power all of its operations with renewable energy by 2025, sooner than an earlier pledge to do so by 2030. Amazon is the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy since 2020, according to the company.

Turning the former coal site into a solar farm “is a metaphor for the energy transition,” Sahlstrom added.