Wind … The West Texas Bumper Crop Equinix Is Helping to Harvest

wind1If you head east of Lubbock, Texas, on Highway 82, you quickly find yourself in the middle of the wide open plains of West Texas. In the first hour of the ride, you pass through several rural metropolises such as: Idalou (population 2,250), Ralls (population 1,915) and Crosbyton (population 1,741). These towns are the fabric of the local economy. Farmers here raise wheat, milo and other small grain crops, but cotton is king. And like all agricultural ventures, these come with significant risks.

In the summer, when thunderstorms roll across the plains, they can bring hail that wipes out the farmers’ hard work in minutes. It is like rolling the dice in a craps game every day. Because of this, the farmers in the area have sought ways to diversify their business plans in an effort to secure guaranteed sources of revenue. One source they found is a wind power project that Equinix is supporting.

Wake Wind Farm

About 10 miles northeast of Crosbyton, standing tall and proud, the majestic wind turbines of the Invenergy Wake Wind farm come into view. It is called a wind “farm” for good reason. The turbines are “planted” to enable harvesting energy from the wind, and, in this area of west Texas, there is a bumper crop of wind available. It is the perfect place for companies like Invenergy to partner with local land owners to convert this abundant natural resource into renewable energy in the form of electricity.

In April 2015, Equinix announced a long-term commitment to use 100% clean and renewable energy for our global data center platform. To help us achieve that goal, we entered into a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Invenergy to buy 100 megawatts (MW) of capacity from the 150-turbine Wake project. That is about 40% of the electricity generated from the array of 265-foot tall turbines being constructed here.

wind2

The area’s population is too sparse to support demand for the large volume of electricity produced, but the wind farm is linked via a 14-mile transmission line to the high-voltage interconnection that moves the power east towards more highly populated areas. The project is on track to begin generating electricity by Q4 2016.

Equinix Impact

While purchasing energy from the Wake project helps Equinix achieve our goal of 100% clean and renewable energy usage, it also has several indirect impacts.

First, our signing the long-term PPA with Invenergy was a major reason the project became financially viable. And that success gives Invenergy the ability to do even more projects, which helps make affordable renewable energy more available to the marketplace.

wind3We are also contributing to the local economy. There are more than 70 different land owners benefiting from diversification of their land use. Their economic health assures continued business for the local merchants and businesses that keep the surrounding small towns in existence.

In addition, this project is bringing industry investment, revenue and jobs to rural counties where nothing new has happened in a long time. At peak times, there are over 350 construction workers employed by the project and there will be 15 employees working at the site once completed.

These local and regional benefits align with company goals and what we value as people. At Equinix, our purpose is to protect, connect and power the digital world. This requires a significant amount of energy, and we understand we have a responsibility to use our resources as efficiently and sustainably as possible. The Wake wind project helps us do that. It is very satisfying to know that in the course of doing what is right for Equinix as a business, we can have a profound impact on the environment and also have a much broader impact on the world around us.