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Amazon deploys carbon-free energy at night with AI

Amazon Baldy Mesa solar farm
The Amazon Baldy Mesa solar farm in California.

Amazon is leveraging artificial intelligence to help maximize its usage of solar-generated energy.

The e-commerce giant, which has made the Climate Pledge commitment to decarbonize its operations by 2040, is implementing a football field-sized battery energy storage system (BESS) next to the solar panels at its Baldy Mesa solar farm in Southern California in May 2024.

The system will send electricity gathered during the day back to the grid, making carbon-free energy available even at night or during overcast or rainy weather conditions.

In addition, at the Baldy Mesa solar farm which is enabled by Amazon and developed, owned, and operated by global energy company AES, machine learning (ML) models based on Amazon Web Services (AWS) SageMaker are helping predict when and how the project’s battery unit should charge and discharge energy back to the grid.

Amazon has enabled the development of 10 solar energy projects paired with battery energy storage systems to date - representing nearly 1.5 gigawatts (GW) of battery energy storage capacity. 

The projects include Baldy Mesa and Bellefield, the largest planned solar-plus-storage project in the U.S., in addition to Amazon’s first rooftop solar array combined with a battery storage unit which was installed at its San Bernardino air hub.

At Amazon’s San Bernardino air hub, the building’s 5.8-megawatt (MW) rooftop solar array is paired with a 2.5 MW battery energy storage unit. All 10 projects are located across the southwestern U.S. in California and Arizona, and are providing power to Amazon fulfillment centers, office buildings and data centers by matching the electricity they use with renewable energy.

Amazon is also currently developing an AI model that will leverage ML capabilities, along with performance data from Amazon rooftop solar arrays to help its buildings minimize energy usage.

The company is first aggregating performance information from the solar panels on the air hub rooftop and other Amazon locations, then combining it with local weather and building data in the AWS Data Lake centralized data repository. 

Once launched, the future AI model is expected to offer predictive insights on site performance and energy generation. This task is currently not possible for humans to perform, as it requires manual analysis and monitoring of each Amazon system and building.

"AI is an important tool that’s already helping our society make the transition to carbon-free energy and address climate change at scale," said Kara Hurst, Amazon VP of worldwide sustainability, in a corporate blog post. "Pairing solar projects enabled by Amazon with AI technologies powered by AWS helps to ensure the grid and the customers it serves receive a steady supply of carbon-free energy for more hours each day, while also helping Amazon make progress toward our commitment to be a more sustainable company."

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