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Amazon announces renewable energy projects to help meet its targets
by Paul Hill
Amazon has announced five new renewable energy projects that will help it source 80% of its energy needs from clean sources, its goal for 2024. The five new projects will be built in China, Australia, and the United States. Aside from its 2024 goal, the firm aims to use 100% renewable energy by 2030 and expects to be net-zero carbon by 2040.
Commenting on the company’s plan, Kara Hurst, Vice President of Sustainability at Amazon, said:
Details of the new projects are as follows:
China: A 100 megawatt (MW) solar project in Shandong. Once finished, it will generate 128,000-megawatt hours (MWh) of clean energy annually. Australia: A 105 MW solar project in New South Wales. This project is expected to generate 250,000 MWh of clean energy per year once complete; Amazon says this is enough to power the equivalent of 40,000 average Australian homes. Ohio, U.S.: Amazon is planning two new projects in this state, a 200 MW solar project and an 80 MW solar project. Virginia, U.S.: A new 130 MW solar project will be the firm’s 12th in Virginia. Combined, the U.S.-based projects will have enough capacity to power the equivalent of 69,000 average U.S. homes each year. The announcement of these projects comes just days after Greenpeace lambasted Google, Amazon, and Microsoft for developing AI tools for oil and gas companies. As a response, Google announced that it wouldn't sign-off on any contracts like those going forward.
By Hamza Jawad
Microsoft partners with Watch Communications to bring broadband access to four million people
by Hamza Jawad
A couple of years ago, Microsoft launched the Airband Initiative to bring broadband access to two million people in the rural U.S. - a goal which was later increased to three million. Recent steps taken to further the program include a digital alliance with the U.S. state of Vermont, and a partnership with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
Today, Microsoft has announced a new team-up with Watch Communications, in order to expand broadband services to more people in the U.S. states of Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois. The collaboration aims to cover a total of four million people living in these regions, 815,000 of whom live in rural areas without broadband access.
Watch Communications will be installing various connectivity technologies, with primary focus upon the leveraging of TV white space solutions. Overall, 50 counties in Indiana, 22 in Illinois, and "most" in Ohio are said to benefit from the deployment of these solutions. More specifically, the partnership will aim to serve one million people living in Indiana, two and a half million in Ohio, and 275,000 in Illinois. Furthermore, both firms will ensure that these people know how to fully make use of better connectivity, while also training them to utilize educational opportunities.
This isn't the first time some of the aforementioned states have been included under the Airband Initiative. In September, Microsoft teamed up with Agile Networks to bring high-speed internet access to 110,000 in rural Ohio, and the very next month, a deal was agreed with Network Business Systems to serve rural communities in Illinois, among other U.S. states. Either way, it looks like the tech giant is well upon its way to complete its initially set goals for the program.
Microsoft expands energy portfolio, partners with Invenergy, EDP Renewables
by Florin Bodnarescu
Following previous partnerships with Sunseap in Signapore, GE in Ireland, and Vattenfall in The Netherlands, Microsoft has announced a brand new pair of partnerships centered on renewable energy. Whereas the aforementioned ones were external to the U.S., these two new ones are domestic.
The first concerns Invenergy, with whom the Redmond giant has a 15-year power purchase agreement (PPA) in place to become the sole offtaker of 74 Megawatts from the former's Wilkinson Solar Energy Center in North Carolina. This is the largest such facility in the state, and is expected to begin operation later this year, with its construction generating 500 jobs. On the partnership, Brian Janous, Microsoft's general manager of Energy and Sustainability, had this to say:
For folks not familiar, the PJM region referred to in the quote is the one operated by PJM Interconnection, a regional transmission organization that's part of the Eastern Interconnection grid which serves Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia.
In addition to the partnership above, Microsoft also announced a deal with EDP Renewables for two 15-year PPA (power purchase agreements) which would total 125 Megawatts. The electricity will be provided by the Timber Road IV Wind Farm, the construction of which will take place in Ohio's Paulding County - approved by the state's Power Siting Board on February 21, 2019.
During construction, the farm is expected to generate 200 "full-time equivalent" jobs, with seven full-time positions being present during regular operation. Timber Road IV is expected to be operational this year, though no exact date was given.
These two partnerships above bring Microsoft's total directly purchased renewable energy portfolio to almost 1.4 Gigawatts, and represent another step towards the company's goal of 60% carbon-neutral data center operations by early 2020.
Ohio begins taking tax payments in bitcoin despite price drop
by Paul Hill
From today, Ohian businesses will be able to pay their taxes in bitcoin – that’s despite recent price drops. Businesses who want to use the cryptocurrency to pay “everything from cigarette sales taxes to employee withholding taxes” need only go to OhioCrypto.com and follow the instructions.
According to the website’s How it Works section, businesses can pay their taxes in three steps. Firstly you’ll have to provide your Ohio Tax Account Number, if you haven’t registered there is a link to get that set up, then you need to enter your tax payment amount and period, from there you send the payment from your bitcoin wallet; payments are processed through the third-party cryptocurrency payment processor, BitPay.
Both Columbus and Cleveland have been re-orienting themselves, the prior has a growing tech hub while the latter is trying to develop the local economy based on blockchain technology. Josh Mandel, Ohio's treasurer, came up with the idea hoping to highlight the state's enthusiasm for the tech industry.
With bitcoin’s volatile price, it will be interesting to see whether businesses that hold bitcoin do actually decide to pay in the cryptocurrency; aside from the fluctuating price, the taxpayer may have to pay over the odds to fund any fees from BitPay, making it cheaper to just pay up in dollars.
Source: WSJ (Paywall) via TechCrunch
By Hamza Jawad
Microsoft and Network Business Systems team up to bring broadband to more rural communities
by Hamza Jawad
Millions of citizens living in rural communities across the U.S. are deprived of high-speed internet access. In order to overcome this issue, Microsoft proposed a $10 billion program last year. Dubbed the Rural Airband Initiative, this program aims to bring broadband internet to two million such people in the country by July, 2022.
As part of this initiative, the tech giant formed a partnership with RADWIN a couple of months ago, in order to develop TV white space solutions. Then, last month, the firm teamed up with Agile Networks to bring broadband to 110,000 people living in rural Ohio, U.S.
Microsoft's journey towards high-speed internet access for unserved people in the country seems to be continuing at a fine pace, with the company now announcing a new agreement with internet service provider Network Business Systems as part of its Airband Initiative. The partnership will be delivering broadband to approximately 126,700 unserved people living in rural communities in U.S. states including Illiniois, Iowa and South Dakota.
Shelley McKinley, Head of Technology and Corporate Responsibility at Microsoft, commented on the new agreement, noting:
Network Business Systems will be building and deploying wireless internet access networks across rural areas in the aforementioned states using several different technologies - most significantly TV white spaces. Microsoft has been trying to utilize white spaces, even outside of the U.S., for several years now. The first TV white space network was launched by the firm in 2015, following successful initiation of pilot projects that employed use of the same technology. A partnership with the Indian government was also announced later that year, focusing on similar projects.
Microsoft has noted the significance of broadband internet access in today's digital economy. With that said, the Redmond-based giant will be hoping that this partnership will help revitalize the technological, educational, and healthcare sector in rural communities across the three states.