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Amazon inks deal for Cedar Creek solar power

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Amazon has acquired more than half of the power to be created by a massive solar farm near Smyrna that has yet to be built. | PHOTO COURTESY OF MARIANA PRONECA/UNSPLASH

SMYRNA – The e-commerce giant Amazon announced its largest investment in renewable energy yet in Delaware on Wednesday as it has brokered a deal for more than half of the power produced by the Cedar Creek Solar Farm in Kent and New Castle counties.

Developed by Connecticut-based Freepoint Solar, Cedar Creek will total about 114 megawatts of power, or nearly 10 times larger than Delaware’s largest current solar array. It faced vocal local opposition from Kent County farmers as it is located in an agricultural conservation district, however, and required a reworked proposal before it was approved by the county’s Levy Court. A separate part of the project is working through New Castle County’s permitting process right now.

Amazon’s Middletown fulfillment center was among the company’s first to feature rooftop solar panels. It has since invested heavily in solar energy. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

Scheduled to be operational by the end of 2024, Amazon has reportedly signed a deal to purchase 74.7 megawatts of the produced power from the project, or 65% of the total power, according to a company spokesman. It will also be known as the Amazon Solar Farm Delaware – Cedar Creek.

Peter Ford, head of solar development at Freepoint, who has been leading the project locally, declined to comment on the Amazon announcement Wednesday. Freepoint plans to build 230,000 solar panels on about 260 acres of farmland east of Smyrna along Woodland Beach Road and Lighthouse Road, according to plans filed with the county.

Amazon has agreed to purchase the power produced by the array through what’s known as a power purchase agreement (PPA), which locks in energy rates and purchases for a specified time period. Such agreements give assurance to solar developers that they will recoup their costs over the long term, while energy buyers can lock in long-term low rates. The terms of Amazon’s PPA with Freepoint were not disclosed.

It’s the second major solar investment for Amazon in the area, as it partnered with French wind and solar farm developer Engie in late 2020 on a 50-megawatt solar farm just west of Townsend. That project will be named Amazon Solar Farm Delaware – Solidago, in reference to the project’s original development name.

The Cedar Creek Solar Farm, spanning two parcels in Kent and New Castle counties will be the state’s largest upon completion. | MAP COURTESY OF GOOGLE/DBT GRAPHIC

While Amazon is well-known for its e-commerce, distribution, media and web services, the company is also increasingly investing in renewable energy around the globe to offset its immense usage footprint. It aims to power 100% of company activities with renewable energy by 2025 and be a net-zero carbon creator by 2040 — 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement — through billions in energy investments, energy efficiency projects and the largest purchase of an electric vehicle fleet in history.

Last year, Amazon became the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy in the U.S. and the world. The investment in Cedar Creek by Amazon comes as part of a new slate of 37 alternative energy projects around the world, totaling 3.5 gigawatts of power.

Twenty-three of those projects are in 13 U.S. states, adding 3.2 gigawatts of power production to the country. Aside from Delaware, Amazon is partnering on its largest renewable energy project by capacity announced to date, a 500-megawatt solar farm in Texas. Nearly all of its investments come in the South, West and Midwest, with only Delaware, Virginia and Georgia sitting on the East Coast.

“Our commitment to protecting the planet and limiting Amazon’s impact on the environment has led us to become the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy in the world in both 2020 and 2021. Given the growth of our business, and our mission to run 100% of Amazon’s operations on renewable energy, we aren’t slowing our renewable investments down,” Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon, said in a statement announcing the projects. “We now have 310 wind and solar projects across 19 countries, and are working hard to reach our goal of powering 100% of our business on renewable energy by 2025 — five years ahead of our original target of 2030.”

Cedar Creek is the largest project ever proposed by Freepoint Solar, a 5-year-old subsidiary of the global Freepoint commodities firm based in Hartford, Conn. It is also building a 50-megawatt Raceway Solar Farm in Harrington.

Ever since announcing their intention to build the state’s largest arrays in 2016, Freepoint has been in search of power and renewable energy credit (REC) customers to make the projects viable. It found its first partner in the city of Dover, which opened a request for proposals (RFP) in 2019 to diversify its energy portfolio. The capital city signed a deal to purchase 50 megawatts of power from Freepoint, all of which are now attributed to the Raceway project.

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